Young lawyers are driving law firm reform, says Eversheds report

A report from Eversheds, 21st Century Law Firm: Inheriting a New World, surveyed 1,800 young lawyers aged between 23 and 40 around the world to take a snapshot of the sector’s future leaders. The aim was to find out what they want from their future careers and their employers and how they see the profession 10 years from now.

According to the firm, the research found a younger generation looking for more flexible ways of working, new technology and a desire for a more commercial approach in the way the legal profession works in the future.

In terms of the fundamental way the legal industry operates, 39 per cent of young lawyers felt the partnership model in law firms is out of step with 21st century business and would seek to make the sector more commercial. However, the prestige of achieving partnership status still endures for the majority, with 68 per cent aspiring to become partner. The research shows an important gender variation in this respect, with significantly more men (77 per cent) stating they want to reach partner level than women (57 per cent).

There are also suggestions that the route into a legal career is in need of reform, with 60 per cent of young lawyers saying the length of the legal career path is unnecessarily long. Many also want more opportunity to progress on merit rather than years worked and felt this would provide greater certainty and security when planning their future. 

What’s more, they believe fully integrating technology into the sector is key in transforming what many consider to be outdated working practices — more than half (51 per cent) of respondents rated their employer’s use of technology as not good enough, with nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) identifying improvements in the way technology could be used. 

Meanwhile, four in 10 (38 per cent) respondents said that it was crucial their future career offered an option of flexible working, with 96 per cent of women and 81 per cent of men saying that flexible working was moderately, if not crucially, important to their future career choices. In fact, says Eversheds, the research found that, after the age of 28, better work-life balance is the primary reason for moving firms.

Overall, Eversheds’ research found a generation that is by no means considering turning its back on the law, with 83 per cent of young lawyers surveyed happy in their careers. However, as technology evolves to keep pace with the wider business world and younger generations reassess their career priorities and traditional models handed to them from previous generations, it is clear that the legal profession must adapt to retain the best and brightest upcoming talent.

While progress is being made with regards to flexible working across many businesses and signs that the gender pay gap is closing are encouraging, the sentiment of this next generation suggests that further change is necessary and will fundamentally alter the way law firms of the future work.