Future of the ProfessionsTwenty years after publication of The Future of Law, Richard Susskind has returned, with his son Daniel this time, to consider The Future of the Professions (OUP).

The Susskinds claim: “We are facing greater disruption and transformation in the next two decades than we have had in the past century”; and “We find it hard to avoid the conclusion that there will be a steady decline in the need for human professionals in the long run.”

Consider that, when The Future of Law was written in late 1995, few lawyers could have claimed to have used the world wide web and that the Law Society said Susskind senior was “dangerous” to suggest that email should be embraced by the profession. In comparing this to how law is practised today, it should be clear even to the sceptic the extent to which the work of the profession has been transformed in the last two decades. And, the authors say, we can and should extrapolate from this to see the likely direction the profession will take in the future.

Even 7 years ago when Richard Susskind penned The End of Lawyers? few in the UK had smart phones and social media was very much in its infancy. Processing power and storage capacity have continued to increase exponentially and we have accumulated ever huger sets of data (aka Big Data). These are the drivers of innovation.

Many professionals may like to think themselves personally immune to, or at least unlikely to be radically affected by, computerisation. After all, they may say, computers can make things more efficient for me and my organisation, but they can’t possibly think, reason and empathise like me.

The Susskinds are here to tell us that they can. Not by aping us, but by processing and analysing the vast knowledge now available to them. The big question for the future is how to control the march of the machines in the “post-professional” world.

The book has been well reviewed (inter alia) by Jeremy Hopkins for LexisNexis’ Future of Law and by Laurence Eastham for SCL.

The authors presented their work at an Oxford Martin School launch on 4 November and the video of this is well worth watching for the value added by the following Q & A session.

Prof Richard Susskind OBE is an author, speaker, and independent adviser to major professional firms and to national governments. Daniel Susskind is a lecturer in economics at Balliol College, Oxford. The Future of the Professions is published by OUP at £30. Full bios and book details at www.susskind.com.

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