A new breed of young lawyer is seeking to reform the legal sector, according to Eversheds’ recent ‘21st Century Law Firm: Inheriting a New World’ report. The law firm’s research revealed young lawyers’ global ambition and desire to modernise the more traditional aspects of the legal profession.
According to the report, 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 work smarter and more effectively. Thirty-five per cent feel that the sector does not use technology well enough and almost half identified ways to make their firms more efficient, including the use of project management techniques and technology to manage workloads.
Although 39 per cent of young lawyers feel that the partnership model is out of step with the 21st century, 68 per cent do still aspire to become partners, although there is an important gender variation, with 77 per cent of men wanting to be partners compared with only 57 per cent of women. In addition, 46 per cent of the men surveyed view the law as a career for life compared with 34 per cent of women.
Age makes a difference too, with lawyers aged 26–30 being less likely to want to become a partner (65 per cent) than the over-30s surveyed. This younger age group is also less likely to see themselves working at a law firm in 10 years’ time (56 per cent of 26- to 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- to 30-year-olds compared with 43 per cent).
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 partners (79 per cent) compared with their North American counterparts (58 per cent).
Working arrangements are also a concern to young lawyers, with 38 per cent saying flexible working is crucial to their future careers and 28 per cent saying they would like to have better facilities to improve their working environments. A further 25 per cent are seeking a better work/life balance and after the age of 28 this is the primary reason why lawyers say 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.