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Law firms should be ‘more commercial’, young lawyers say

Technology seen as key to transforming 'outdated working practices'

16 January 2014

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Young lawyers would like the law to be more like a commercial business than a profession, according to research by global law firm Eversheds.

The survey of 1,800 lawyers aged between 23 and 40 around the world found that many see embracing technology as key to transforming what they consider to be 'outdated' working practices.

More than a third said the partnership model is 'out of step' with the 21st century. Nearly two thirds (62 per cent) view being exposed to international work as an essential factor in their choice of employer. Work/life balance was also highlighted as an important career consideration.

"The last five years have seen unprecedented changes in the legal profession, with younger lawyers adapting to this change early in their careers. This generation has the potential to transform the way in which the legal profession works," commented Lee Ranson, managing partner at Eversheds.

"While they have much in common with previous generations, these young lawyers do have some different priorities. With their greater sense of 'connectedness', this generation sees the world as a smaller place and working internationally is more important to them than to prior generations.

"As this generation is voicing some concerns over how their career can fit with their life ambitions, it's important that the legal sector listens to and addresses these concerns so that it can continue to attract, build relationships with, and retain the brightest talent."

Key findings

According to the research, young lawyers are in search of new ways of working. They see engaging and connecting with clients as key and aspire to make better use of technology to help them to work smarter and more effectively.

A third (35 per cent) feel that the sector does not use technology well enough and almost half suggested ways to make their firms more efficient, including the use of project management tools and technology to manage workloads.

Although more than a third of young lawyers (39 per cent) felt that the partnership model was out of step with the 21st century, the majority (68 per cent) still aspire to make partner. However, there is a gender variation among these, with 77 per cent of men only 57 per cent of women wanting to become a partner.

Lawyers aged 26 to 30 are also less likely to want to become a partner (only 65 per cent) than the over-30s surveyed, the research found.

There are also strong regional variations in how young lawyers view their careers. Lawyers in South America are far more likely to want to become a partner (79 per cent) compared with their North American counterparts (58 per cent).

Nearly half of the men surveyed (46 per cent) view the law as a career for life, compared to just 34 per cent of women.

The study found that lawyers in the younger age group are less likely to see themselves working at a law firm in ten years' time (56 per cent of 26-30 year olds, compared with 61 per cent of lawyers outside the age group) or for the rest of their professional careers (37 per cent of 26-30 year olds, compared with 43 per cent).

Working arrangements are also a concern to young lawyers, with over a third (38 per cent) saying flexible working is crucial to their future careers, and over a quarter (28 per cent) saying they would like to have better facilities to improve their working environment.

A further 25 per cent are seeking better work/life balance and, after the age of 28, respondents said this is the primary reason why they would move firms.

The research also showed that gender inequalities in pay and opportunities remain a problem. Women are rewarded better in the early stages of their careers, but the situation reverses three years post-qualification, when men start to earn more, with the gap widening as they progress through their careers.

Between the ages of 21 and 25, women earn 30 per cent more than men. However, between the ages of 26 and 30, men earn 11 per cent more than women and, by the ages of 36-39, the gap has widened to 25 per cent.

The full findings of the study are published in 21st Century Law Firm: Inheriting a new world.



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