Old vs. new
The next generation has always been criticized for being irresponsible and disrespectful by the previous generations. For instance, Socrates states that “The children now love luxury; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are tyrants, not servants of the households .” in 470BC.
More than 2400 years later, the upcoming generations still get similar criticisms from elderly people. Overall, in every generation there are kind people and rude people, there are hard-workers and lazybones including in the legal market. It is normal to have worries about the next generations since they are the next steps of our ‘progress’. This article will analyze the characteristics of Generation Z lawyers regarding the future of the legal industry.
Generation Z has been considered as people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s. According to Bloomberg, ‘Gen Z-ers’ form more than 30% of the total world population. In addition to this, the legal industry, just like any other industry, has already met with its first Gen Z employees and their impact on working lifestyle will shape the future of the legal market. However, law firms have a lack of preparation regarding the adaptation of Gen Z mindset into the legal industry.
Gen Z mindset
Defining the Gen Z mindset and understanding its unique characteristics plays a massive role, while industries are seeking for tech-enabled solutions. They are the first digital natives who grow up in a time when technology has become an inseparable part of our lives. To be more specific, the first Gen Z-ers was only 10 years old when the iPhone was launched in 2007. The world has become more interconnected by the mass proliferation of Wi-Fi, smartphones and high-bandwidth cellular service as they reached their teenage years.
As stated by Pew Research Center, nearly all U.S. teenagers (95%) say they have access to a smartphone. Almost half (45%) of them say they are online on the web “almost constantly”. Even though many professionals claim that the technological tools distract them, it creates a great multi-tasking skill in Gen Z-ers. They are the experts of shuffling in applications and tabs, which urges them to work on tasks simultaneously. Most importantly, law firms will be able to retain the brightest minds -that has a digital perspective- and position themselves for future success if they embrace these changes now.
Highlights of the Next-Gen Legal Tech
The Next-Gen Legal Tech Study results demonstrate the future lawyer attitudes, behaviours, and interests regarding what they demand from a legal research solution. To exemplify, 77% of the law students think that visualization tools are useful to find the most relevant results. There is evidence that growing up with lots of screens causes Gen Z-ers to prefer visualization. Even though, the law is a practice area where verbal requirements are highly involved. Half (50%) of the Gen Z law students choose to use Lexis Advance because of its AI/analytics, visualization software and learning opportunities to prepare them for a successful term. However, 46% of them prefer Westlaw, as an online legal research service, that has similar features. It is clear that starting from their law school years, next-gen lawyers attach importance to visualization and analytics tools.
Where do law firms stand?
There is no reason to doubt that Gen Z-ers have their own needs, interests and perspectives. They are virtual indigenous people who value diversity, security and independence. Therefore, Gen Z-ers have a common expectation that law firms will embrace the utilities of technologies such as content marketing or analytics tools but it is not the case. Law firms fall behind to follow recent developments in technology. For example, only one in four (25%) of law firms have documented content strategy. Generation Z lawyers are the ones that will fill the gap between legal services and technology.
In short, law firms need to develop reasoned strategies for Generation Z lawyers to keep pace with other competitors. It is important to embrace the new ways of working with technology in partnership with the next generation and to explore their perspective. Therefore, one key strategy to invite them to work faster and smarter with training programs. This will help law firms to focus on creating a diverse and inclusive working force. At the meantime, the next generation lawyers can find opportunities to learn more about their professional goals.