Here's news that's bound to bring rejoicing: lawyers might not exist in 100 years. At least not as we've known them for centuries—that's the thesis of Richard Susskind's newest book, "The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services."
THE IDEA: Susskind, an adviser to the U.K.'s Lord Chief Justice, made waves 10 years ago when he predicted e-mail would replace the letter as the primary form of legal communication. Now he forecasts an even more dramatic shift in the profession, arguing that computers may render lawyers obsolete.
THE PROOF: Thanks to the Internet, tasks that were once the exclusive domain of law professionals—advising, drafting, researching—can now be performed by various smart systems. Soon technology will be able to tailor itself to a host of legal demands, from generating divorce contracts to customizing defense strategies—and, in the process, eliminate busy work that lawyers bill for.
THE CONCLUSION: Susskind offers lawyers two survival strategies: differentiate between legal services that can be outsourced to technology and those that require an actual human being; then take charge of developing both systems, the human and the technological. Let's hope the lawyers adapt; cracking jokes at the computer's expense isn't nearly as fun.