The legal market is not ready for Gen Z
Graduation 2016 is upon us and the ambitious graduates of Generation Z (those born after 1995) are about to enter the workforce. They are fast thinking, mobile and incredibly interactive. They were raised from a young age with access to high speed internet, instant communication and constant access to information. Remember your first mobile phone? I got mine in 1995. In 1995 I was dictating letters and emails for my secretary to type out and send. Gen Z was born then and know a very different world.
Research by the Brighton School of Business Management has found that Gen Z are even more entrepreneurial and flexible than millennials: they will choose work-life balance over salary; they want fast career progression. Faced with these differences and increased competition from the tech sector, how can law firms go about attracting the best talent of this generation?
Make no mistake, the legal profession requires succession to survive. To do this, and to attract Gen Z, we need to create a new career path. It is not that Gen Z are not interested in the law as a career, more that the traditional partnership track will seem too slow to them. More than any other generation, Gen Z has come to expect instant gratification. An hour to download a film is too long. Why would Gen Z work for approximately 8-10 years post qualification before they even have the have opportunity to apply for partnership? What does partnership bring with it? Increased liability, capital contributions, very few voting rights (if any), and no real increase in salary. For a generation laden with debt, that values work-life balance, does the partnership model on offer at most firms today have any real attraction? From what we know about Gen Z, it seems unlikely.
Offering a corporate culture attractive to Gen Z is an equally difficult task for law firms. Google is one of the top ranked employers in the world. Why? Largely because of its culture of innovation and transparency. Law firms have historically been pretty poor at both. Life in a law firm, especially a large one, is all about the billable hour, not innovation; about protecting “your” client base and therefore not about transparency and openness either. This culture can – and must – change. Imagine if the executive board of a law firm and the heads of all departments held a “TGIF virtual reality meeting” to discuss the firm’s news, industry changes, and new acquisitions, for example. This is what Gen Z will expect, and crave: true transparency and access to information so that they feel empowered to influence the decision making process.
The traditional legal market is not ready for Gen Z – but things are beginning to change. The rise of NewLaw firms offer Gen Z and following generations a true alternative with different career opportunities and a more innovative, transparent culture. Change is hard in any organisation, especially a global one, but for its survival, it is essential.
follow Janvi Patel on Twitter on @janvi25
This article was first published in The Times Law/The Brief in July 2016.
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