I was determined not to do a boring old New Year, new job piece. Apart from being a hideous cliché, I’m not sure motivational quotes and regurgitated, common sense ideas are that useful. Instead I wanted to reflect on a conversation I had at the end of last year, which did contemplate the future but of the whole profession rather than individuals.
There was a time when lawyers were mentioned in the same breath as doctors, but it is fair to say that kudos has faded and at dinner parties the admission of your legal credentials is now whispered rather that proudly announced. There is of course the customary and predictable cynicism aimed at lawyers and the obligatory long-standing shark analogies, but there is a more serious problem that has been creeping up on us over a number of years. This is particularly true for firms that want to recruit the brightest and the best because the brightest and best are no longer choosing the law. There are more modern, brighter, shinier professions, and law is seen as dusty and old-fashioned by comparison.
This is not just a problem of the subject matter, in fact the subject matter is so broad that it can be made exciting to just about anyone who chooses the right sort of work to suit their interest. It is a problem of the working environment, buttoned-up suit-wearing image, old boys club hangover and the perception of long hours and inflexibility. Not so many games consoles in reception, jelly bean dispensers and bean bags here.
So the challenge is to maintain that professionalism that clients need, whilst appealing to a new generation in a fast moving labour market. Not easy, but perhaps more closely reflecting the workplaces of clients might be a good reference point.