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How do law students and graduates choose where to work?  (Part Three)

Posted by Allen Li on 26-Jul-2017 07:49:29

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It was incredibly interesting, informative and inspirational to get the views of Geordie Johnson and Milan Gandhi

If you have read Parts One and Two, you’ll know that: (i) Geordie is the students / young lawyers (NZLSA) representative on the New Zealand Council of Legal Education; and also graduate at Russell McVeagh) and (ii) Milan Gandhi is the founder and director of The Legal Forecast, a “not-for-profit run by early-career professionals who are passionate about disruptive thinking and access to justice”; and also research clerk at McCullough Robertson. 

Is it possible to summarise and add my two cents?  I’ll give it a go:

1.  People often enter the law because of the wide-reach and application it has.  They often have noble aspirations to do some real good and help society.  This is nothing new, and firms and organisations will do well to remind themselves that this is the underlying goal for many lawyers and should be an underlying value that the firm/organisation aligns themselves with.

2.  Flexibility, work/life balance, supportiveness of colleagues, challenging work, and opportunities to develop are some of the most important factors in deciding where to work.  There is a real human element to it and, thankfully, these are things that shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve if organisations take this seriously.  As Milan implies, even the support and attitude of one person can make a massive difference to a lawyer’s job satisfaction and (I’d say) well-being, which can’t be overlooked.

3.  Technology helps provide junior lawyers with challenging work and opportunities to develop, by freeing them from menial tasks.  I also think work-life balance can be achieved by doing the same work in one tenth of the time.  In addition, might a more senior lawyer have more time to provide the guidance and support a junior lawyer needs, if they have more time in their day?  Technology has many benefits, but the benefit of giving back some time must be up there, as time often holds people back from focussing on other things (in many cases, things that matter most).

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4.  Milan said that “3 years ago, if someone had found a talented, inexpensive robot to review documents, I might never have gotten my start at a law firm”.  This is a fear shared by a lot of people and I’m not sure it’s warranted.  Instead, will technology simply allow new starters to do the work higher up the food chain earlier?  Law firms need to delegate work in the most cost-effective way.  Those menial jobs need to be done, so it makes most sense to get the cheapest people to do it.  If those younger lawyers are no longer required to do that part, then it frees them up to learn/do the more interesting stuff.  I think that logic should flow all the way through a firm, not just for those at the top.

5.  Geordie said that, at law school, there isn’t a lot of awareness about how firms are responding to disruption and newer levels of technology.  Is there a real opportunity, therefore, for firms and organisations to attract the best talent by marketing what technology is out there and being used by them?  Can you alleviate people’s fears by showing them how technology allows your lawyers to do better work?  If you’re marketing to law schools to attract talent, I think it’s clear that you need more people, not fewer.

6.  Geordie and Milan have some very good advice for college students.  Study law because you have a genuine interest in it, not because of the money or prestige.  When choosing which papers to study, choose what you enjoy.   Most people would acknowledge that the “real” work at law firms barely resembles the theory learned at law school.  Taking that to more senior ranks, I think senior lawyers would do well to remember to also do the work that you enjoy, as that is what you’ll also be best at.  Work out ways you can win more of that work. 

7.  What the legal profession will look like in 10 years is difficult to predict, but it is likely to look different to today.  Geordie points out that even very simple things like using control+f to find words in documents has dramatically increased efficiency.  Both Geordie and Milan think the size of the legal profession will shrink.  Geordie notes that the focus for lawyers will be on really understanding clients (which I’d say is something clients would expect of its lawyers currently, but lawyers are currently too time-poor to focus on this, which is a real gap that needs to be filled).  Milan thinks that the profession will be more tech-infused, diverse and multidisciplinary.  He notes that this is already visible to some extent.  I would add that Minter Ellison’s recent acquisition of an IT consulting company is an obvious example.

8.  Finally, Geordie and Milan are clearly deep thinkers and they care about the profession and their colleagues.  It’s inspiring to see and I know the profession can, and should, learn from those coming up through the ranks, and not just those that have been there and done that.  As per my blog on baby-boomers and millennials, the profession can achieve better outcomes if we work together.

I hope we’ve been able to put a spotlight on a younger voice. 

Will you listen to what they are saying to help you attract the best talent?

Topics: Future of Law, Law Firm Management, Practise of Law

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