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How law firms can maximize their Gen Z recruiting investments

Natalie Runyon  Director / ESG content & Advisory Services / Thomson Reuters Institute

· 5 minute read

Natalie Runyon  Director / ESG content & Advisory Services / Thomson Reuters Institute

· 5 minute read

Legal employers have an opportunity to leverage current industry trends to maximize their investment in key Gen Z talent to give their firms the edge.

Today, baby boomers are retiring at an increasing rate, and in the legal profession, this could have a significant impact. Even as the pool of lawyers topped out at 1.3 million over the past five years, demand for legal services is likely not to change as technology continues to transform lower-level work.

As a result, legal employers have a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of these trends to maximize the investment in their Gen Z talent — those professionals born between the mid-1990s through the mid-2010s and are just now graduating from law school.

The intersection of these trends — Gen Z lawyers’ thirst for learning, their increased need for purposeful work, and the commoditization of lower-level legal work — aligns nicely with the higher level, intellectually rigorous work offered by legal employers. Not surprisingly, this is good news for legal employers in the attraction, recruitment, and retention of Gen Z lawyers.

How Gen Z differ from Millennials

Many legal employers still view Millennials (those individuals born between 1980 and 1994) as the primary generation to which they need to adjust, however, Gen Z lawyers themselves vary quite a bit from their older peers, including in:

Outlook — When it comes to making decisions, lawyers from Gen Z are more risk averse when compared to their Millennial counterparts. The main reason for this is because they witnessed the instability of the Millennial generation during the Great Recession.

MotivationLike Millennials, Gen Z lawyers also value socially-engaged companies, but their ability to develop marketable skills and advance in their career tends to be a bigger motivator. Gen Z professionals like to see how they can make a direct impact instead of relying on their employer to support social causes. They also see diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a requirement instead of just a benefit.

Education — Gen Z professionals are on track to be the best educated generation ever, with a 5% increase in college enrollment, compared to Millennials, and a 14% increase over members of Gen X (born between 1964 and 1979). This means that college degrees are less of a differentiator among employees in the workforce, and that legal employers should expect up-to-date knowledge and high expectations from this generation. Indeed, they are comfortable with digital tools, analytics, and data, and they are ready to adapt.

In addition, Gen Z is looking for alternative ways to gain the knowledge and skills they want outside of traditional higher education. They use tutorial videos, online classes, and real-world experience to tailor their education towards their unique, personal goals.

How to attract & recruit Gen Z lawyers

All employees want an employer that prioritizes well-being, ethical and transparent leadership, and DEI, and this matches up well with what Gen Z recruits will expect of their the legal employer. To maximize efforts to attract and recruit young lawyers, legal employers should be ready to take the following actions:

Establish personal connections between your preferred candidates and legal employer recruiters — Gen Z job seekers rank their relationship with their recruiter as the most important factor when deciding whether to accept an offer. More than 60% of Gen Z students say referrals from current or former employees are their favorite way of learning about potential employers. Gen Z candidates still value face-to-face communication, and rank their colleges’ career centers and hiring events nearly twice as high as their Millennial counterparts when it comes to favorite job sources.

Make DEI investments front and center as part of your employer brand — Gen Z is the most diverse and educated generation in U.S. history, and members value diversity in all aspects — thought, background, and demographics. For diverse candidates, it is even more important for them to see diversity at senior levels of the firm because it demonstrates that someone who “looks like me” can succeed here.

One of the most important elements for legal employers is creating a compelling narrative that communicates the firm’s identity to the market. For example, does the firm’s website reflect, in words and images, the diversity of the organization? Does this follow through to the firm’s recruitment marketing efforts?

Another important aspect to ensure D&I is part of your employer brand is communicating how the culture supports inclusion. Some ideas to achieve this while also to demonstrating transparency, include:

  • shooting videos with staff members at all levels to put a human face on your firm and offer an honest glimpse into your organization’s work culture;
  • recording a podcast featuring C-suite executives to share their insights with the greater community at large; and
  • writing a blog that shares how to be successful at your organization — what leaders look for in terms of culture, attitudes, and workplace habits that leaders hope to see in your firm’s rising stars.

Modernize your benefits package — The most critical parts of an employers’ benefits package that Gen Z workers value are student loan payoff assistance, equality in parental leave, tuition reimbursement, and workplace flexibility. Analyzing your well-being offerings and highlighting the parts that have to do with financial well-being would go a long way, too. In addition, letting go of the less valuable benefits, such as fitness programs and gym memberships, are a good idea as well.

Limited resources and budgets are always at play when it comes to legal employer operations, and client service will always take precedent over anything else. This is why it is smart for legal employers to be intentional and tackle the firm’s quick-wins firms in terms of Gen Z recruiting.

And if you are not sure what these are, ask your existing Gen Z talent, such as first year-associates or entry level workers. This is generally the easiest place to start.

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