New study shows that, due to client demand, Generation 3.0 lawyers have to be more creative and should improve their communication skills to build trust and be successful
Communication skills and creativity will be the most important talents lawyers will need in the future, according to a new study carried out by Iberian Lawyer. Interviews with associates at leading firms in Spain – carried out as part of the ‘Generation 3.0’ project – revealed that among the key characteristics clients will look for in their lawyers in the years to come will be “good interaction, transparency and creativeness”. Consequently, participants in the study concluded that Generation 3.0 lawyers will need to develop their communication and creativeness to a greater extent than they do at present.
The project involved a series of workshops and interviews with more than 60 associates at major law firms in Spain in which issues such as internal law firm management issues, changing client demands, and legal technology were under discussion. And the importance of lawyers of the future building a close personal relationship with their clients was among the key themes to emerge from the study.
First of all, how are Generation 3.0 lawyers defined? A survey of more than 130 law firm associates conducted by Iberian Lawyer earlier this year found that, typically, Generation 3.0 lawyers are under 40 years old and most of them are keen to become a partner – however, it is worth noting that one in three does not have this ambition. Another significant characteristic of this demographic is their strong desire for a good work-life balance. The survey found that the majority of Generation 3.0 lawyers think they should not have to work more than 45 hours per week.
Trust is crucial
So how does this new generation see the role of lawyers evolving? The associate interviews revealed that developing confidence is a crucial part of the relationship between a lawyer and their client. Generation 3.0 lawyers have no hesitation in creating a close personal relationship with their client. This proximity to the client, as well as the associated trust, are crucial to lawyers’ future success. Without this trust, lawyers will not be successful.
The lawyers of the future will have a stronger “commercial empathy” with their client than currently exists. Clients are generally more demanding, better informed, and have a much deeper knowledge of legal matters, largely due to resources found on the internet, so, according to the study, the relationship with the client is transforming into a ‘professional to professional’ one.
The lawyers of the future will be more willing to work as a member of a team, they will feel more comfortable working with others, and more willing to give and receive information and knowledge. They are also more adaptable to change. Although they have strong opinions and principles, they are willing to modify them if they hear better propositions. As a result, the new generation of lawyers prefer horizontal organisations – "I can change if others change too" appears to be the message from Generation 3.0.
Need for work-life balance
The next generation of lawyers think motivation and work-life balance is very important. They are quite individualistic in their outlook, but believe that individuals can work very well together. Other than their individualism, the new generation also believe that the prestige of the firm they work for is also important.
Leadership, corporate culture, and ambition are not major concerns for Generation 3.0 lawyers. They prefer equal opportunities and ongoing dialogue rather than established hierarchical structures. They aren´t afraid to admit they are wrong and they change their mind more often than some partners would like, the study found.
Future lawyers also require more transparency with regard to what is required to become a partner, as well as greater transparency in relation to their firm’s finances. They are also very willing to voice their opinions.
Generation 3.0 lawyers believe technology can enhance the legal profession in three key respects, namely ‘customer proximity’, automation and transparency. Customer proximity is a priority for young lawyers and they imagine that, in the future, new technology will enhance communication with clients. They also believe that technological advancements will mean clients will find their lawyers more ‘immediately accessible’. In addition, the lawyers of the future believe new technology will further diminish the need for lawyers to be physically present in the office.
Artificial intelligence takes over?
It is also anticipated that technology will automate the most basic tasks performed by lawyers. For example, the lawyers of the future envisage software that can “understand” professionals who dictate a few facts and data to their computer, which then produces legal documents – in addition, translations will be automatic, while the most common legal enquiries will be automatically answered by artificial intelligence (AI). Some predict that AI will perform other more advanced tasks that will enable lawyers to save even more time.
Generation 3.0 lawyers also say that technology will have a significant impact on human resources. This could range from the management and optimisation of teams working on specific projects to more transparent processes and systems for managing lawyers and allocating them specific tasks.
Meanwhile, with regard to marketing, an area that is suffering, according to some lawyers due to the impact of social media, there is an expectation that technology will result in more transparency in the sense that there will be more public evaluation of lawyers by clients.
The term ‘flexibility’ is frequently referred to by Generation 3.0 lawyers, who would like to apply the concept to many aspects of their lives. They want more flexible schedules to enable them to have a more balanced family life, as well as more flexibility in relation to where they work, that is, being allowed to do tasks from home or other locations, and therefore avoiding unnecessary journeys into the office. In addition, the lawyers of the future will want more flexibility in forming teams and allocating cases, which they believe will result in innovative approaches to problem-solving.
Generation 3.0 lawyers believe that, in the future, law firms will increasingly become more horizontal organisations and less hierarchical. They believe lawyers will collaborate more with their colleagues and share more information. Meanwhile, lawyers will have a greater depth of technical expertise.
With regard to the workplace of the future, it is anticipated that offices will be more ‘open plan’ with unassigned desks. It is also expected that lawyers will spend less time in the office, with the result that their work will be more intergrated into their private lives. Connectivity and technology will be key to this new trend.
Generation 3.0 lawyers will also be more international, they will know more languages and study in different countries. There is also an expectation that nation states will have less power and there will be more international organisations such as the European Union.
In order to succeed, the lawyer of the future must be able to quickly adapt to change. In addition, speed, immediacy and security are the requirements that clients are increasingly demanding from their legal advisers.