An Offer with No Takers

A quick adventure down the twitter hole  over the merits of a Brit futurist named  Richard Susskind yesterday reminded me that the notion of depth of thought, attention span if you will, is on its death bed.  After some  brief mention over the past few days of #ReinventLaw, which is a gathering of the techno futurist faithful that predicts Anglo-American law will be done by machines serviced in India using commodity pricing from a Chinese take-out menu, I expressed my view that it ain’t happening.

The quick take on Susskind, for those unfamiliar, in his own self-promoting words :

In his latest book, Richard claims that legal institutions and lawyers are poised to change more radically over the next two decades than they have over the last two centuries.

The future of legal service, he says, will be neither Grisham nor Rumpole. Instead, it will be a world of virtual courts, Internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditized service, legal process outsourcing, and web-based simulated practice. Legal markets will be liberalized, with new jobs, and new employers, for lawyers.
While there are elements to what he “claims” that have, at least, superficial merit, on the whole it’s sheer, unadulterated hogwash. His claim to fame was that he predicted lawyers would use email. This was hailed as one of the greatest futurist predictions ever. It never struck me as much of a reach, but since then Susskind plays guru to a crowd of cheerleaders who want to drink his cool-aid, which is why I suppose he was featured at #ReinventLaw.    Without promoting this grandiose yet dire paradigm shift, Susskind would be utterly irrelevant. With it, he’s the hero of people who think in six minute bursts.

When I raised my doubts about Susskind, I was asked for more details on twitter. I demurred, twitter being a terrible medium for anything remotely resembling thought.  I did, however, offer my time should any of the futurist crowd want to find out whether Susskind’s dystopian vision of the future of the law could withstand scrutiny.

Pat Lamb suggested I propose myself for a slot as a speaker at #ReinventLaw and put myself up for vote in the marketplace of futurist sycophants to gain the great honor of being voted to be a speaker.  This kinda missed my point. I’m not selling anything in their marketplace. I’m not seeking their attention.  I have no cool-aid.  The point is that the futurists talk only amongst themselves, where guys like Susskind preach and the hallelujah chorus responds with amen in four-part harmony.  It would make my ears burn.

Rather, I responded, I would suffer the indignity of speaking for free if they sought balance, if they believed their vision could survive the disinfectant of sunlight. If they think they’re onto something, then they should invite people who question their vision to show that it can withstand scrutiny. Otherwise, it’s just another circle jerk among the sycophants, and unworthy of being taken seriously.

I told Pat that if they call, I’ll answer the phone. But they won’t call. Both Pat and I know it.

Which brings me to the point of this rumination, a post from  marketing philosopher Seth Godin that struck at the core of the essential conflict being played out on twitter and in the Church of the Future of Law.

No need to read the whole book, I can just glance over the Cliffs Notes… I get it.

I don’t need to hear your whole pitch, just show me the summary slide… got it.

No, I already heard about your vacation… remember, I saw the Instagram feed.

Him, why would I go out with him? I read his profile.

You’re probably smart enough to ‘get it’ merely by reading the 140 character summary of just about anything. But of course, that doesn’t mean you understand it, or that it changed you. All it means is that you were quickly able to sort it into an appropriate category, to make a decision about where it belongs in your mental filing cabinet.

It’s not that there aren’t good, even brilliant, ideas out there anymore. It’s that rarely will anyone take the time or put in the effort to perform the hard labor of thinking.  Every tool being developed, receiving the love, serves to shorten our attention and interest.  Not only do we become increasingly superficial, but we begin to believe that it’s just as good as thinking deeply, pondering the nuance, the consequences, the implications of ideas.

You get it? No you don’t. Not yet. Because all you’ve gotten is a tweet.

Read the book. The whole thing. Use the product. A few times. More than a few times.

Immersed. It can change you.

Twits. Six minute segments. Slogans. These aren’t substitutes for thought. If you’re prepared to base your vision of the future on such trivialities, such superficial fluff, then you have no cause to complain when it all falls in the toilet.  But I get to complain when the lowest common denominator drags me down there with you.  And you can bet that I will complain, because I do not agree with every harebrained scheme that strikes your fancy. 

For the moment, there are more people who still prefer to think rather than leap blindly, but this is changing as attention spans collapse and the ease of superficiality is embraced. But the trend is downward, and there aren’t many willing to spend their time and effort to offer critical thought about where the trends will go.  I offer, but there will be no takers.

Do you get it?

19 thoughts on “An Offer with No Takers

  1. Honest Ahab

    Hehe, he said “circle jerk” . . .

    And these newfangled “tools” you speak of, are they per chance, one and the same with the so-called “futurists”?? . . .

    Are these tools the modern-day equivalents of Nostradamuses or Nostra-dumb-asses?? But perhaps Nostradamus was the original Nostra-dumb-ass?? . . .

    Regarding these types of predictions, I think the new wave group Sparks got it right in 1982 on their song “I Predict” from their album “Angst in My Pants” when they proclaimed:

    “You’re gonna take a walk in the rain
    And you’re gonna get wet
    (I predict)

    You’re gonna eat a bowl of chow mein
    And be hungry real soon
    (I predict)”

  2. SHG

    It’s no better to ridicule every new idea than it is to pray to it. Each stands or falls on its own merit, which is the problem: people who adore tech and futurists love anything new without any critical scrutiny. Some are good. Some are inconsequential. Some are awful. Each has to be individually worthy.

  3. SHG

    If I knew who you were, I might be able to suggest something.  Best I can do is note that not every post here is for every reader. Sometimes, it’s a bit “inside baseball” for a select slice. This is one such post.

  4. SHG

    Oops. You may be right. I took it to refer to his not getting the post as opposed to getting your comment. Either way, meh.

  5. Ron Coleman

    Not at all clear why you wrote this post. As you say, these comments are pretty much nothing about nothing being expressed by a nothing (in terms of mattering) and being digested — and, of course, retweeted — by the nothing crowd.

    That was already plenty of nothing.

  6. SHG

    The “why” is simple. Because I wanted to. It’s why I write every post. Even when they’re plenty of nothing. I’m allowed.

  7. Pingback: Reason 19 To Get Rid of the Third Year of Law School | Simple Justice

  8. Byron Warnken

    This post is so vague. Obviously technology is changing the practice of law. Obviously you don’t disagree with that? And I wouldn’t bother with the comment, but something you’re saying here (or something I think you’re saying here) needs more of a voice. I encourage you to continue this thinking.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Without a doubt, we’re moving toward some of the things Susskind describes. However, it’s the big, over-the-top assertions that simultaneously encourage the “kool-aid” drinkers and alienate the more down to earth, actual practicing lawyers. Witness, virtual courts. It doesn’t mean never, but there is much innovation to talk about between here and there.

    I may or may not be a kool-aid drinker myself. I am, most certainly, standing by the punchbowl adding my own flavor. My site, [Ed. Note: self-serving spam link deleted per rules.] publishes statistics on lawyers derived from court filings. Who handles what kinds of cases and how many have they handled? That is technology meeting the law in an important way. Imagine if that existed in criminal law. You would know which of your peers plea out their clients and who goes to trial. (Of course you already know, but do potential clients?)

    And another of my creations, [Ed. Note: second self-serving spam link deleted per rules.], is certainly a stepping stone towards our future. It estimates the value of a car accident using an algorithm accident attorneys have in their heads. Is it perfect? Of course not. But imagine a similar tool that factored in every known car accident verdict or settlement and compared it to the present facts. You, potential client, might be able to take that number directly to the adjuster and demand it, otherwise get a lawyer to litigate. The insurance companies began doing it some time ago with Colossus. Ask any accident lawyer if that had an impact.

    Of course, none of this technology, crude or advanced, eliminates the lawyer. And I think that’s a part of your point.

    It seems as though the rest of your point relates to the kool-aid drinker’s inability to have this conversation in a meaningful way. You may be right. Who cares? They aren’t the ones inventing the future.

    In any event, I look forward to reading more in that future.

    1. SHG Post author

      Before responding, you are what I delightfully call a day-tripper, meaning that you’ve come here because of one post, write a comment that’s mind-numbingly insipid, self-serving and disgustingly spammy, and begin with the monumentally clueless notion that this is the first and only post on the subject (because it’s the only one you, the day-tripper, is aware of) and try to fit into your (again) self-serving paradigm, all the while being blissfully unaware that idiocy is frowned upon here.

      Now, having explained this, I have written a great deal about the subject. Just because you don’t know about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If you want to read more, then do so. If not, then don’t. But never darken my comments to try to promote your business again. I will not be so kind next time. And the last thing I need, or care about, is your encouragement. I trust this clarifies things for you.

  9. Byron Warnken

    Point taken and I will be reading more. If it matters any, and I’m sure it does not to you, I genuinely believe my own bs. This may further confirm my “idiocy.”

    1. SHG Post author

      To the extent you genuinely believe your own bs, and that being that there are changes happening, then I agree with you. Which of those changes are “disruptive” or spell “the end of lawyers,” as Susskind is fond of saying, which will survive, which will matter, which are just modest evolution of tools lawyers use, and which, if any, will produce structural change is the question. Yet, the #ReinventLaw crew adores them all, good and bad, big and puny, without the slightest hint of critical scrutiny.

      See? That wasn’t hard.

  10. Pingback: Reinvent Law NYC: A view from across the pond – The past, present and future practice of law

Comments are closed.