AI, digitalisation, sustainability, ESG, the green transition, DEI, and work-life balance are buzzwords that you hear in the law firm business these days. A lot of focus is put in developing these matters both internally and as part of the law firms’ service offerings. At the same time, the next generation of lawyers, Gen Z, is entering the legal profession. When looking at the general characteristics of these zoomers, it becomes quite clear that the Zs will accelerate change in law firms, and law firms like ours must prepare for the added diversity brought by Gen Z.
Let’s begin with a look at the ‘general characteristics’ of Gen Z. Zs are currently about 11–26 years old and soon they will represent a large part of the work force. Zoomers are born digital and used to rapid technological change. They have grown up in the midst of the environmental crisis and the pandemic. One of the defining characteristics of this generation is said to be their strong commitment to social justice and inclusivity. They are environmentally conscious and well aware of the global challenges facing society. Zs are described as idealistic, they are highly purpose driven and, what is completely clear from our recruitment processes during recent years, they need the employer’s values to be aligned with their own. Zoomers value work-life balance and prioritize personal well-being. Now, how do these characteristics match the change initiatives going on in our business?
AI, it’s possibilities and threats, and how to go about it, is a very hot topic (also) within law firm management. Gen Z grew up in the digital age, surrounded by smartphones, social media, and instant access to information. They are the first true digital natives. The use of new digital tools is no mystery to Zs, and I’m sure they will play a pivotal role in the development and implementation of AI in the legal industry. We need to give space and opportunities for these new talents to take us through this disruptive development, and as Millennials, Generations Xers and Boomers, we must be ready to learn and take advice from the Zoomers. Where Z:s bring their tech-savviness to the table, the older colleagues can in turn offer great learnings within interpersonal skills useful in negotiations, advocacy and relationship building, which are also and still key in this business.
The green transition and ESG are “new” phenomena where our clients increasingly need strategic level advisory from us. The services and client needs are still developing, and my guess is that also in this field, the Zoomers are likely to be at the forefront of the development and complement the know-how and skill of more seasoned practitioners. Zs are very aware of the global challenges facing society, such as climate change and environmental sustainability, and eager to contribute to a more sustainable world. In order to attract and motivate Zoomers in law firms, it is also important that we learn to talk about our purpose and the impact that we create through our services in our assignments, also those not directly linked to these phenomena.
DEI initiatives have been high on the agenda of law firm leaders for some time now. One of the defining characteristics of Gen Z is their strong commitment to social justice and inclusivity. This generation is more diverse and inclusive than any that has come before, and they are unafraid to advocate for these values. Zoomers will for sure push for greater diversity and equity within the legal profession. DEI policies will be under constant scrutiny by Gen Zs to make sure law firms walk the talk.
Perhaps most significantly, the arrival of Gen Z in law firms signifies a shift in work culture. Zoomers value work-life balance, and for Zs, it is important that they are offered flexible work arrangements, remote work options and different well-being services. We need to find a balance between accommodating these preferences and ensuring that the needs of clients are met promptly and efficiently. However, I don’t see any contradiction here, and I firmly believe that focusing on the well-being of the staff will lead to increased productivity and us being able to serve our clients even better.
Communication styles and preferences, both for internal and external communication, is a topic of its own, and I think we all know how hilariously different Zoomers and senior law firm representatives can be in this respect. Some clashes between senior and junior staff members are inevitable and we need to focus on building an inclusive culture with a high level of psychological safety to find harmony and effective ways of working smart together, utilising both technology and traditional legal skills, building on each other’s individual strengths.
Embracing this new wave of talent and working together to bridge the generation gap will ultimately make law firms more efficient, inclusive, and better equipped to tackle the evolving legal landscape. It will be an exciting ride and truly intriguing to see the change that we will achieve together.