As younger generations of lawyers enter the profession, they still have much to learn. Fresh out of law school, as they put their knowledge into practice in a real-world context, they will never stop growing in their expertise throughout their career, nor should they cease to be inquisitive along the way. But Gen Z and Millennials could also have something to teach older generations of lawyers, for example in terms of exploring new ways of working or challenging established norms.
At either end of this spectrum, technology has a crucial role to play. On one hand, it can support young lawyers to learn faster and develop more quickly, playing to their strengths as ‘digital natives’. On the other, it’s not just the young who will benefit from investments in technological innovation to boost their knowledge and competencies. Lawyers of any age are already discovering the advantages of working smarter – both personally and professionally. And clients expect smarter ways of working, too. According to the 2022 State of the UK Legal Market report, clients expect that their lawyers are able to recognize which technology solution to implement in order to solve a particular challenge that the client is facing.
When it comes to legal research and know-how tools – as with any tech investment – it’s vital to consider the user: what their needs, preferences and expectations are and what outcomes they want to achieve. This is critical in order to make sure tools are fit-for-purpose and that they will be fully embraced. By considering these factors at the outset, you can set your lawyers up for success at every stage of their career path.
What sort of know-how and intel do lawyers need?
When lawyers are only just embarking on their careers, they are going to need a whole raft of resources and support at their disposal, from precedents and case law to practical guidance on specific points of law, checklists and matter maps to direct how matters are managed. But equally, seasoned lawyers also need to be able to pinpoint key information quickly or get up to speed rapidly on a new area of law which falls outside of their direct experience to date.
The benefits of using online legal research tools are that they can put the relevant information and guidance straight into lawyers’ hands in an easy to find and easily digestible format, going into as deeply or broadly as required to augment their existing knowledge. It’s expertise on demand, giving you the lowdown on any piece of legislation, point of law or legal issue – whenever you need it.
How do lawyers conduct research?
The days are long gone when lawyers made use of the impressive-looking libraries of legal books adorning the walls of their firms. But even though today everything is online, what users – and particularly less experienced lawyers – need is a reliable source of truth: a place where they can be confident of finding all the information they need. They need that library – but digitised so that it is fully searchable and always up to date, with easy links to other relevant references and resources that might prove useful, such as explanatory notes or insightful content concerning a particular case, statute and regulation. This will increase both the quality and the efficiency of the work they do.
Senior lawyers delegating research work to junior colleagues want to be assured that they are looking in the right place or they may just want to be able to check the answer to a question quickly themselves. And whatever their age or stage, everyone these days wants to be able to access the resources they need remotely, anytime, anywhere, to accommodate remote or hybrid working.
How tech-savvy and adaptable are lawyers?
Because Gen Z and younger Millennials were the first generations to be brought up as digital natives, of course, they want the tech tools they use at work to be intuitive, connected, and to move with the times. But these days so does everyone and, increasingly, partners are thinking more like millennials. The sudden pandemic-driven shift to working from home forced everyone to adopt new tools and ways of working almost overnight that might otherwise have taken years to take off, and now many lawyers have more of an open-minded view when it comes to tech. Older generations have had to be adaptable, and they can now see the advantages. And while they may not generally be known for being as tech-savvy, they can be just as interested in innovation and get just as frustrated if something doesn’t always work easily and seamlessly.
Therefore, it’s important to pick the right solutions for the requirements carefully and think about whether different types of users need different types of training to get the best out of the research and knowledge tools they are given, so that they can get straight to the heart of their work.
Making tools work for everyone
Gen Z and Millennials might have technology embedded into their ways of doing things to a much greater extent than their older colleagues, and as they progress through the profession, they will increasingly be the drivers of change. But modern mindsets are not the sole preserve of the young, and lawyers at all levels from trainee to partner are pushing for greater adoption of legal tech solutions for everything from matter or financial management to client collaboration, and from legal research tools to industry insights.
The needs of these different groups of users may differ wildly – for instance in their level of tech expertise or what they want to get out of the tools they use. So, solutions need to be versatile and accessible, comprehensive but uncomplicated. More and more people are coming on board with the idea of using legal technology – it’s just a case of making sure it works well for each person.
Read more about how millennials are changing legal practice and technology for all users.