In 2000, Dr. Richard Susskind predicted that by 2005 people would have better access to the internet than to justice. Sadly, he has been proven right. Having a knack for making seemingly impossible predictions in the legal field, he is seldom wrong.

In his book ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers’, Dr. Susskind makes a number of predictions regarding the future of law and what it has in store for the new breed of lawyers. We will discuss them over a series of blog posts in the coming weeks. However, what struck me out most was a brief description of this ‘noble’ profession given towards the end and his expectations of it from the future generations.

Benevolent Custodians and the Jealous Guards

Dr. Susskind succinctly puts that there are two factions in the legal profession: one of the benevolent custodians and the other of  jealous guards. The benevolent custodians are the ones who are ready to make law as inclusive as possible. For them, getting speedy justice, through whatever means possible, is the end goal. On the other hand, the jealous guards still try and guard the ‘conventional’ systems. They are the ones who see law as a closely guarded ‘holy grail’, the access to which ought to be in the hands of the chosen few. These guards feel a sense of entitlement towards the legal process. They cringe at any deviation from the set process, or at any outsider helping them.  He cites George Bernard Shaw quote which beautifully sums it all up – ‘all professions are conspiracies against the laity’.

In an era where lawyers still see ADR as a Alarming Deduction in Revenue, we still have a lot of these jealous guards. Having interacted with numerous professionals in the course of working on ODRways, I can safely vouch for the fact that there exists more jealous guards than legal custodians in the Indian legal system. Lawyers still aren’t open to doctors or engineers becoming arbitrators/mediators in certain cases citing that these professionals do not have the requisite expertise to handle cases, even when the latter’s experience could aptly deal with the case at hand.

This mindset needs to change. As Dr. Susskind also points, law exists for the progress, benefit, and better functioning of society and not to cater to the needs of the lawyers. We, as the next generation lawyers should be conducive to change which might not be “profitable” in the short term. In a country which never fails to surprise us with the quantitude of cases being filed, spanning across numerous areas, lawyers would still have enough work even if we go for ADR all guns blazing.

The Power Drill Analogy

Once a group of new recruits were taken for a field visit. In front of them was a shining, new piece of power drill, the companies bestseller. The manager then asked the freshers “Tell me something, is this what we sell to our customers?”. His juniors, thoroughly confused, shook their heads in approval. The manager then produced a plank of wood with one neat hole drilled in it, obviously done using their power drill. “This is what we actually sell our customer.” said the manager, “The drill is only a medium to serve our actual purpose, and that is what your focus should be on- to provide our customers with better tools which makes it easier for them to drill holes.”

Dr. Susskind applies this business lesson to the legal field. Barring a few exceptions, most lawyers today focus on the drill rather than the hole. He writes “Your elders will tend to be cautious, protective, conservative, if not reactionary.” and says that it is our (the next generation’s) job to be the change.

Lawyers, who give their blood and sweat to their practice, still consider law a noble profession. Let’s preserve that.

“The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and angle of contingency, and qualifies all his qualifications, but who throws himself on your part so heartily, that he can get you out of a scrape.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson