Law firms: This is what millennials really want

What do millennials really want? Finding the key to attract and retain young talent is often a losing battle for law firms, but Burness Paull’s Callum Sinclair says innovating (and talking about it) is crucial to connecting with the new generation of lawyers.

Ahead of his session at The Lawyer’s Business Leadership Summit, Sinclair talks about embracing tech to allow young lawyers to add value to the business.

Callum Sinclair
Callum Sinclair

How can law firms attract people into the profession – lawyers and non-lawyers?

In my view, people come into the legal profession for the same reasons they have always done: it offers a stable, challenging, generally well paid professional career with a variety of options for specialisms, and the opportunity to make a difference, whether that is facilitating access to justice, a successful business transaction or the smooth running of a law firm.

“We need to be embracing process and technology innovation to make our peoples’ jobs more fulfilling”

So the answer to the question above is that we need to deliver that – and demonstrate we are delivering that – in a way that is relevant to generation Y & Z of lawyers and support staff. In other words, as a profession, (as well as generally strong people management) we need to be embracing process and technology innovation to make our peoples’ jobs more fulfilling and their lives easier, allowing them to concentrate on adding the genuine value which results from their talent, degrees, skills and training and deploying systems to perform discrete tasks which they can perform faster and more accurately.

This is as opposed, for example, to throwing junior lawyers at a transaction to manually trawl gigantic document sets into the early hours for sustained periods…

To some extent, that will involve new job roles and a change in existing job roles to reflect a change in working relationship between humans and systems, like the ‘legal technologist’ and ‘legal knowledge engineer’ roles identified by Richard Susskind and others. These roles will not be limited to ‘NewLaw’ offerings – Burness Paull already has a dedicated legal technologist for example!

We also need to ensure that legal education is keeping pace with advances in the profession and with technology.

What is stopping individuals from considering a career in law?

A range of factors: perception that it is becoming more and more difficult to secure a traineeship, and that the profession is falling behind others (such as big accountants and consulting firms) in both innovation and rates of pay. Long hours and work/life balance are cited as well as lack of diversity and, increasingly, cost of study. Most progressive firms are addressing all of these issues as we speak.

What sort of lawyers/professionals do law firms need?

Again, law firms need what they have always needed – lawyers and grads who are dedicated, intelligent, diligent, commercially aware, strong communicators and good networkers. But increasingly they need to be tech-savvy: to understand the importance of technology, and to have the ability and confidence to embrace technology and process innovation as a means of providing digestible commercial advice and delivering excellent client service. And, with the help of legal technologists, the pro-active foresight and vision to identify opportunities for their firm to stand out for the competition in the digital era.

Burness Paull’s Callum Sinclair is one of the speakers at the upcoming Business Leadership Summit on 28-29 September at The Brewery. Find out more about the event and book your place here.

Read further interviews with speakers at the conference here.