Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Courageous & Agile Millennial Lawyer

Law Deans posted a piece of Dean van Cleave's essay on the courage of law students today:

"Current students and recent graduates are exceptionally brave and optimistic. They are coming to law school because they really want a legal education. In the face of a difficult job market, a profession that is in a period of dramatic transformation, and even with the prospect of incurring significant debt, they want to study law, become lawyers, and have fulfilling careers. They are going against the grain, against the advice of commentators, some pre-law advisors, and probably friends and family. That takes a lot of courage, real courage. Amelia Earhart said, 'The most difficult thing is to act, the rest is merely tenacity ... You can act to change and control your life, and the procedure, the process is its own reward.' The decision to act also takes optimism."

This is a good point. Law students today must be braver than law students at any other time in history. This profession once produced a guaranteed outcome of a stable and generally high-earning career. Today, that is not the case.

The ABA recently ran an article about the rise of the agile lawyer and noted the decline of available traditional legal jobs and the overall drop in law school applicants. "Over the past few years, only about 55 percent of law school graduates have been finding full-time, law-related work nine months after graduation. Would-be lawyers have taken the hint, and first-year enrollment in U.S. law schools has dropped to its lowest level since the 1970s.

The author goes on to ask, "[i]s this the end of lawyers? Hardly. But I do think we’re seeing the probably irreversible decline of the traditional 'lawyer job,' which performs a range of tasks with defined responsibilities in a single location during specified hours at an agreed salary. In its place, we should expect to see the rise of agile 'lawyer employment'—the multidimensional, customized application of a lawyer’s skills and talents to provide client value when and where it’s required."

For this new agile lawyer, law schools need to "help lawyers develop the skills, experience, and confidence to thrive in a marketplace that will increasingly turn to them for niche opportunities, project work, mobile and flex-time engagements."

These new skills include:
• Agility, requiring flexible availability and multiple short-term engagements.
• Technology-enabled, using tools that automate or streamline repetitive processes.
• Multidisciplinary, delivered in conjunction with other professionals and trades.
• Creative, invoking rarely used skills and talents that, as it turns out, we actually have in abundance.

This may be the perfect time for the courageous Millennial to enter the legal field because "Millennial lawyers are on record as seeking customizable, flex-time employment that allows them to accommodate work within a larger set of priorities." And this is exactly where the legal profession is headed.

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