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Eversheds: New Breed of Young Lawyers is Seeking to Reform the Legal Sector

New research from global law firm Eversheds has revealed that a new breed of young lawyer is seeking to reform the legal sector. With global ambition and a desire to modernise the more traditional aspects of the legal profession, many young lawyers would like the law to be more like a commercial business than a profession and see embracing technology as the key to transforming what many consider to be outdated working practices.

The report by global law firm Eversheds, ‘21st Century Law Firm: Inheriting a new world’, surveyed 1800 young lawyers (23-40 years old) around the world to take a snapshot of the sector’s future leaders. It found an ambitious group who want to drive innovation in the legal sector.

According to the research, 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. A third (35%) 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 nearly two fifths of young lawyers (39%) felt that the partnership model was out of step with the 21st Century, the majority (68%) do still aspire to become a partner, although there is an important gender variation with 77% of men wanting to be a partner compared to only 57% of women. In addition, nearly half of the men surveyed (46%) view the law as a career for life, compared to just 34% of women.

Age makes a difference too, with lawyers aged 26-30 being less likely to want to become a partner (only 65%) 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% of 26-30 years olds compared with 61% of lawyers outside the age group) or for the rest of their professional careers (37% of 26-30 years old compared with 43%).

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 a partner (79%) compared with their North American counterparts (58%).

Working arrangements are also a concern to young lawyers with over a third (38%) saying flexible working is crucial to their future career and over a quarter (28%) saying they would like to have better facilities to improve their working environment. A further 25% 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% more than men. However, between the ages of 26 and 30 men earn 11% more than women and by the ages of 36-39 the gap has widened to 25%.

Lee Ranson, Managing Partner at Eversheds, comments:

“The last five years have seen unprecedented changes in the legal profession, with younger lawyers adapting to this change early in their careers. This generation has the potential to transform the way in which the legal profession works, but there has been little research carried out into the views and aspirations of young lawyers. Eversheds conducted this innovative research to identify their unique concerns, opinions and ambitions.

“While they have much in common with previous generations, these young lawyers do have some different priorities. With their greater sense of ‘connectedness’, this generation sees the world as a smaller place and working internationally is more important to them than to prior generations. Two thirds (62%) view being exposed to international work as an essential factor in the choice of employer.

“With nearly half of young lawyers surveyed saying they believe they can identify constructive ways to make their firms more efficient, it’s clear that these are voices that should be listened to. As this generation is voicing some concerns over how their career can fit with their life ambitions, it’s important that the legal sector listens to and addresses these concerns so that it can continue to attract, build relationships with, and retain the brightest talent.”


Notes to editors

About Eversheds LLP

Eversheds LLP and its world wide associate offices have over 4,500 legal and business advisers providing high quality legal services to the private and public sector and business and finance community. Access to all these services is provided through the firm’s global operations. Eversheds combines local market knowledge and access with the specialisms, resources and capability of one of the world’s largest law firms.


About 21st Century Law Firm: Inheriting a new world

This report is the third report in a series that looks into the future of the legal market.

The first study, launched in 2008 found that clients were becoming more focused on costs and were welcoming the end of the ‘billable hour’. The second report in the series was launched in 2010 and identified an emerging client revolution, as in-house lawyers increased in professional and status.

This latest ‘21st Century Law Firm’ report takes the debate to the next stage by looking specifically at what the next generation of lawyers want from their future careers, from their employers; and how they see the profession ten years from now. Their responses reveal a driven, ambitious and mostly satisfied group of young professionals. While they have much in common with the previous generations, there is a great deal they would like to change. As this generation moves into management and leadership positions in the decades to come, the new shape, culture and characteristics of the 21st century law firm and profession will be what they choose to make it.


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