So what is a professional? Wikipedia explains the term this way:
“A professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns their living from a specified activity. The term also describes the standards of education and training that prepare members of the profession with the particular knowledge and skills necessary to perform the role of that profession. In addition, most professionals are subject to strict codes of conduct enshrining rigorous ethical and moral obligations. Professional standards of practice and ethics for a particular field are typically agreed upon and maintained through widely recognized professional associations.”
In their new book, The Future of the Professions, Richard and Daniel Susskind discuss how ever more powerful technology tools impact the future of most professionals, not just lawyers. As many of you know, Professor Richard Susskind has done extensive research and has written several books relating to the future of the legal profession. The father-son duo were guests on our Digital Edge podcast The Future of the Professions: An Interview with Richard and Daniel Susskind.
They discuss the concept of “the grand bargain” where professionals were granted exclusivity in certain fields generally through a licensing process in order to serve the public interest. The professionals regulated their own professions and provided professional standards. They enforced these standards through various ways including dismissing from the profession those who could not or would not comply. Even though the members of the profession may have benefited from this self-regulation and exclusivity in many ways, including financially, the main goal was to serve the public. There is really no realistic way that those without training and expertise could set the standards for architects. Even if a legislative body attempted to do so, it would have to rely on the expertise of members of the profession.
Enter the machines–the information technology machines. At first they serve as tools to assist the professionals, as when architects work more quickly and effectively using computer-assisted design (CAD) software. But clearly we are moving away from what the authors call our “printed-based industrial society” to a digital information-based society. We are seeing a lot of realignment. And we will be seeing more, just as the printing press eliminated the the need for scribes who made copies of documents by hand and making flight reservations online severely reduced the number of travel agents.
In education for example, more people have already signed up for Harvard’s online offerings than have enrolled at Harvard in the history of the university.
We professionals are proud of our expertise, skill and training. Some of the concepts in this impressive book are challenging. You may disagree with some of the authors’ conclusions. But none of us can deny many changes are occuring. Some patients now spend more time with a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant associated with a doctor than the actual doctor. That change has more to do with cost control than technology. Every lawyer is aware of the online legal document assembly services. I hope many of you will read their book, but you can list to this outstanding podcast right now. It is a bit long than our typical podcast because the conversation was so fascinating.
Daniel gave us an example of the card game Solitaire. According to the rules you must play a red card on a black card and vice versa. When one plays with physical cards, you can play a red card on a red card and no one stops you. When you play Solitaire on a computer, however, you cannot make that play as the computer will not allow it. You can extrapolate that concept to technology-assisted administration of medication where the “machine” would not allow one to administer an overdose or to pick the wrong bottle of medicine.
Sharon and I hope you enjoy our Digital Edge podcast The Future of the Professions: An Interview with Richard and Daniel Susskind.