It’s never as simple as it seems

In her recent  Editor’s Picks A grim picture for aspiring lawyers Catrin Griffiths, Editor of The Lawyer writes,

With newly-qualified retention rates at the major law firms patchy at best, training as a solicitor isn’t the safe option it was. Taken with the news that the major BPTC providers have hiked their fees again, is the best qualification for a legal career to have wealthy parents?

To which you might add, given the changes that the legal profession is likely to see in the next ten years, why would anyone thinking about training as a solicitor see it as a safe option anyway?

Today’s issues may be the apparent manipulation by City firms of their NQ retention rates (although as the comments suggest, this is not particularly new) and the problems facing LPC and GDL providers (Oxford Brookes being only the latest – Southampton Solent University, the universities of Sunderland, East London and Wolverhampton and Sheffield Hallam University all stopped teaching the GDL in 2011). But if you are about to invest a great deal of time (yours), effort (yours) and money (yours or your parents) in training for a career in the law, shouldn’t we (universities, law firms, the Law Society, the Regulator) all be a bit more honest not just about what that career may involve but what it may not. It is all too easy to duck this; and simply to say, “We don’t know”. You may not buy in to the full Richard Susskind vision of the future for law firms (although I happen to think that he is likely to be more right than not) but what we do know for sure is that the future will not be more of the same (even if many law firms seem to think it may be).

 

 

Monkey business

One of the things I am most enjoying in what is laughingly called semi-retirement is the distance it allows me from what was once all-consuming. I am no longer a lawyer, and have nothing to prove: I have been there, done that and worn the t-shirt for far too long. Instead, I feel I have much to achieve still, and the energy to do it – and I no longer have to climb the hierarchy. The struggle up the greasy pole is a thing of the past.

I have been reading Dario Maestripieri’s article The Origins of Power in the RSA’s Summer Journal. I liked the section in which he considers the different social strategies of male rhesus macaques. He describes the problems for ‘challenger immigrants’ – “young, strong and impulsive, and [with] no patience for waiting in a queue”, who are not always successful, and then goes on,

In larger groups, despotic alpha males have built a system of alliances to protect their status and privileges. When ambitious males join one of these groups, their best bet is ‘challenger resident’ strategy. Challenger residents do not immediately confront the alpha male. Instead, they start out as low ranking and concentrate on building alliances with other males. Only after they have identified the strengths and weaknesses of the alpha male, become familiar with social dynamics within the group and established political alliances with other males do they launch an attack on the alpha male. Given their knowledge and strategic ability, challenger residents are often successful in defeating the alpha male and taking his place at the top.

Sound familiar? Simply substitute lawyer for macaque.

More on Generation Y in law firms

Finding the time to think is never as easy as it should be: the demands of a transactional practice leave little opportunity to step back and consider where a difference can and should be made. An email yesterday, which somewhat unusually I did not straight away consign to junk mail (the usual destination for unsolicited communication), took me to the Pennington Hennessy Blog and a short post on Generation Y, and from there to an excellent article in the FT (which had prompted the post), A to Z of Generation Y attitudes.

I have posted on this topic before, Graduate divas – don’t you love them (triggered by a Jordan Furlong post in Law 21), and it is, as some of my partners know, a particular hobby horse I ride. But that doesn’t make it any less important. What I found interesting in Alison Maitland’s FT article, is this,

Yet two studies into the attitudes of those Generation Ys that are in the workplace suggest that Carrie, Alex and their young professional peers are not as different from other generations as supposed – and not just because the recession has upset their expectations.

While craving excitement and challenge, nearly 90 per cent of Generation Ys describe themselves as loyal to their employer, according to the study Bookend Generations , published this week by the US-based Center for Work-Life Policy. In addition, nearly half of this tech-savvy and “connected” generation prefers face-to-face communication at work to e-mails, texts or phone calls.

But what sets them apart from us (and I am unashamedly a Boomer) is

the unprecedented pace of technological change, which shapes how they expect to work and why they resist boundaries; and the disappearance of the job for life.

Our challenge is how to engage with them.