In a year of chronicling the recession, it’s fitting that our final issue of 2009 leads on the effect of the downturn on the future members of the legal profession.
Over the past 12 months The Lawyer and our sister title Lawyer 2B have run countless stories about trainee deferrals, which will soon be coming home to roost. Many firms are predicting that they will be overwhelmed with applications over the next two years. Berwin Leighton Paisner, DLA Piper, Herbert Smith and shortly LG are responding to the situation by putting in yet another test for applicants - a test that will soon become standard.
The gate is narrowing; no wonder the Law Society launched a campaign this year to discourage students from a career in law. Indeed, as far as I know, Linklaters is pretty much the only firm explicitly to say on campus to potential recruits that the life of a lawyer requires hard work, and plenty of it; most other firms’ pitches revolve around the general marvellousness of the workplace.
So what can the 2010 batch of trainees expect from the next decade? Better pay than they would have had 10 years ago, but they’ll not be in the lockstep generation - they’ll have to earn their rises on merit. They’re likely to get more rounded experience; Linklaters’ move to stop overspecialisation, as we reported last week (7 December), is a significant challenge to the way law firms have behaved. And if the evangelicals for legal process outsourcing are to be believed, the next decade’s lawyers will be given less grunt work. The next generation will be living in a more interconnected world; Freshfields’ Facebook-style initiative for alumni will be one of many examples of firms embracing social media techniques.
In a similar predictive vein, in the next issue of The Lawyer, out on 4 January, we’re unveiling the first Hot 100 of the new decade. There are no associates in the Hot 100 this year as we’ve decided to create a special annual publication dedicated to the junior end of the profession. It’s called New Faces (published in early spring) and it will spot emerging talent, whether in-house, in private practice or at the bar.
We’re already assembling a pretty exciting list, but if you think you know someone who should be in it, then drop me a line.