“As a junior lawyer, I keep suggesting different ideas to the partners I work for. And they are ignored. How can I change this?”
This is a question I’m asked regularly from the junior ranks. In fact, it came up again just last week on the Colin and Anna Show - a new “audio show” on the Clubhouse app, which I’m co-hosting with Colin Levy, Director and Legal Evangelist at a legal tech company, Malbek.
Some interesting dynamics are occurring in law firm land at present.
We have at least one law firm purchasing real estate in the Metaverse in an industry first, while its counterparts are pushing for a return to the office full time. Generally, there’s a lack of cohesion between internal and external innovation and mindset. And then, recruitment and attrition rates have gone seriously awry.
“The average associate attrition rate for the top 1,000 law firms in England and Wales has increased by 37% over a year. In the USA, the average associate attrition rate in Am Law 100 firms has increased by a staggering 61% compared to the pre-pandemic norm.
Given that associate attrition costs firms between $200,000 and $500,000 per lawyer lost, this is an issue that they can no longer afford to kick into the long grass. And firms’ knee-jerk responses have been to hurl money at talent, catalyzing a wage war”.
I get it - no one thought about making juniors’ lives easier when today’s partners were juniors. Yet, it appears that this deep conditioning of “I had to do the hard yards, so should you" amongst the leadership set is unfolding as the biggest blind spot and obstacle to innovation for many law firms.
Could it be that embracing the innovative ideas put forward by junior lawyers is the answer to staff shortages?
Technology can make legal work more inclusive and rewarding for junior lawyers while boosting productivity (emphasis added). In the 2021 Clio Legal Tech Trends report, 58% of lawyers said technology improved their work-life balance (another reason why juniors are fleeing law firm nests). This is the way of the future, whether seniors like it or not.
To the juniors reading this, please keep ideating.
- If your partners aren’t interested in technology, don’t follow their lead. Use your spare time to learn about technologies that may support you and the firm. When the firm is ready, you’ll be one step ahead.
- Persevere in the face of rejection. At Amazon, it is culturally hard-wired for juniors to approach a manager outside of their department if their actual manager says no to an innovative idea. Refine your pitch over time - add some data, speak to the pain point differently etc.
- Plant seeds, everywhere. Sprinkle information about that recent demo you had from a legal tech company with others in the firm, at all levels. Be an influencer of change, one conversation at a time.