Millennials and the Legal Profession – an exciting new project with the University of Leeds

The way in which legal careers are planned and managed has been brought sharply into focus by the SRA’s SQE plans. These developments take place within a context of transformative change within legal services. This project is designed to explore how different generations within our profession are able to negotiate these changes.

In particular, academic and press discussion has noted the changing conditions in which the millennial generation have grown up, studied, interacted with the world and each other and the ways in which these conditions may differ from those experienced by previous generations.

What is a “Millennial”?
Millennials are also known as Generation Y and sometimes the Net Generation. Generally the term is applied to individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. Although the exact range is used in a variable way, for these purposes we are applying the term to anyone who is 32 or under and has started their legal career, whether as a student or is currently employed.

It is, of course, an over-simplification to attribute particular characteristics to a group of people simply because of when they were born. However, changes in education, society and the legal services marketplace have been taking place with such rapidity that it is important to understand the implications of these conditions on different generations of our profession.

What are the press saying about Millennials?
Millennials have grown up connected within a world full of technology. They are ethnically diverse and are said to be more tolerant of perceived differences than other generations. Another important difference is that they are likely to be the first that are less economically successful than their parents. Other accounts emphasise their engagement with social media, experiences of austerity and quality of life concerns. The fee regime within higher education, competition for training contracts and growing employment flexibility are all also important contextual differences between millennials and previous generations.

What are some of the issues that affect the legal profession?
That is what we would like to find out. To what extent does employment flexibility conflict with firm demands? What is the relationship between the development of a professional identity of solicitor and a career potentially shaped by job moves? To what extent are the perceptions of different generations about the values and expectations of each other properly understood? Thus, are training needs and expectations shared? There is also a growing awareness about the threats to the well-being of solicitors at all career stages – and related issues around resilience and the management of personal and professional risk etc.

What are we at Leeds Law Society planning to do?
We are keen to ensure that Leeds remains an attractive city for law firms and lawyers alike and can retain its up and coming legal talent. In conjunction with the School of Law, University of Leeds, we aim to publish a report on the Millennial Experience and the Legal Profession. It is intended that this Report will establish a greater shared understanding of the challenges facing the next generation of lawyers and of those that work with them, supervise them and employ them.

We are setting up a series of workshops (of about 1.5 hours each) and for about 20 people at each session, in September and October 2017. The anonymity of all participants will be a core principle of the discussion. The current proposed timetable is as follows:

September Workshops:

  • with Millennials in small and medium firms, CPS and working for the council
  • with Millennials in larger firms and working in house

October Workshops:

  • with undergraduates doing a law degree or masters, students undertaking the GDL and LPC
  • with HR managers and Learning Development managers from our member firms
  • with senior fee earners and partners from law firms who supervise Millennials