The Changing Marketplace – How technology and millennials are changing the traditional law firm and impacting women in the legal industry
In recent years we have seen a shift in, not just the market place for legal services, but also in traditional law firms as they learn to adapt to the newest trends in technology brought on by young legal professionals. Changes to the legal industry are being made by two significant forces, technology and millennials. These two forces are re-shaping the traditional law firm’s hierarchical structure as well as impacting the future of women in the industry.
The 2019 Report on the State of the Legal Market is jointly issued annually by the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters. This report examines the state of law firms across the United States and breaks down market changes. The report has found that the biggest contributor to change in the market is technology.
Technology and innovation come in a variety of applications available as useful tools for attorneys in their professions whether working in their offices or at home. Legal professionals have easy and quick access to many social media apps. These apps are useful in most areas of the legal profession.
As client needs and expectations are changing, law firms are being pushed to achieve greater innovative efficiency. “Clients have more choices than ever for meeting their legal needs, and leading firms are now tailoring their strategies and delivery models to provide legal services in the manner that most effectively intersects with clients’ considerations,” said Mike Abbott, vice president, Enterprise Thought Leadership and Content Strategy, Thomson Reuters.
There is no denying that technology is the future of the legal profession, one that attorneys should fully embrace. Technology defines the future of the traditional law firm and thus, the future of the legal profession.
It is an exciting time to be in the legal profession. The workplace has a multitude of generations shaping the industry. The legal industry is comprised of five generations: 1) the traditionalists, 2) baby boomers, 3) millennials, and 4 & 5) members of generations X and Z.
The traditional law firm is facing a challenge due to millennial views not meshing well with the traditional structure and hierarchical system. Although boomers, Generation Xers, and millennials share common values, their life experiences have completely changed their perspective and how they solve problems. Thus, we see a younger generation of lawyers not staying at one firm for their entire career.
The hierarchy of traditional law firms is an offsetting idea for millennials. They think horizontally in terms of growth for their career, while prior generations think vertically, focusing on the hierarchical status of each team member. If millennials do not feelthey are appreciated right away for their contributions as opposed to “paying their dues,” they lose interest. These young lawyers are leaving the traditional law firm system and creating legal startups that ignore all traditional law firm structures.
Millennials come into the workforce with excitement and are ready to immediately be active members of the law profession. JP Box, the author of “The Millennial Lawyer,” discusses this exact problem and provides a solution. He believes the future of the legal industry should embrace the enthusiasm of young lawyers. He states this can be done by empowering associates to contribute immediately and keeping an open-door policy, so new ideas or enthusiasm are not shut out by the hierarchical structure.
Mr. Box believes that embracing this new perspective leads to improved overall productivity that benefits the firm. The key to keeping millennials interested and the legal industry moving is to embrace these new ideas whether it be through renovating the firm through technology or new legal approaches.
Women are leaving the industry – Technology and millennials may be the solution
This past summer at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, the ABA’s initiatives focused on the issue of women leaving the practice at what should be the height of their careers. As we think of the future of the legal industry, it is hard to imagine the number of women in the legal field diminished. Women have fought for their right to go to law school and become members of the legal profession, and yet there seems to be a decline of women lawyers.
Some of the reasons why women are leaving the practice are listed as “Paternalism, tokenism, lack of ‘face-time,’ and an atmosphere of competition vs. teamwork.” With the legal industry changing with innovative technology and the new trend of millennial ideas, the solution to women leaving the practice could be as simple as embracing the millennial model that focuses on the horizontal structure versus vertical.
Keily Blair, who was this year’s winner of the Inspirational Women in the Law Award in the UK, states that the traditional career path in a law firm rewards the number of hours spent in the office. This linear approach to promotion has had a disproportionately negative impact on women. Blair provides studies that show horizontal workplace structures and technology that makes it easier for women to work away from the office with just as much impact if not more, and thus more [CL1] likely to keep women in the field.
The outdated law firm models which stifle growth in the legal profession and oppress the women who work in it are being challenged by millennials. Technology and the millennial perspective are changing the structure of the traditional law firm which is directly impacting the future of women in the industry. The direct impact, if it continues, may be the solution needed to keep women in the field. There is no denying the future of the legal industry is going to be more innovative than ever, and we hope for it to be more diverse than ever as well.