Ask The Chef
To begin with, soaking beans really isn't necessary. It does minimally shorten cooking time and leaches away some oligosaccharides (those pesky gas-producing sugars), but it also soaks away some of the nutrients. The only time I would highly suggest presoaking beans is if you are using a slow cooker. Due to the low temperature that is used during this process, giving the beans a head start is a good idea. If you start out with canned beans, of course, there is no need to soak either.
Cooking beans without soaking may take 20 to 30 minutes more in some cases. They require a little more water, and the bean skins are less likely to crack. We've always been warned not to salt beans until they're cooked (salt will toughen the beans, it is said) -- but I added salt to the cooking water anyway (2 teaspoons salt to 1 cup beans and 2 cups water), and achieved delicious beans with creamy, tender insides. Some authorities say you should always cover the bean pot; but the beans are actually softer if you leave the pot open. This technique will also keep the bean intact for a longer period of time.
It basically comes down to personal preference. If you are in a pinch and don’t have time to soak your beans, don’t worry; your beans will turn out just fine without the additional step.