Are Gen-Z Lawyers Giving The Finger To BigLaw?

Are Gen-Z Lawyers Giving The Finger To BigLaw?

Survey Shows BigLaw Is Being Rejected In Favor Of Work-Life Balance And Other Attractions

Gen-Z lawyers appear less than enamored by the attractions of BigLaw that may have captured the attention of so many of their preceding lawyers – with many favoring careers in-house and other non-BigLaw roles, according to a new survey.

As the legal industry grapples with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey report from Major, Lindsey & Africa reveals that Gen-Z lawyers and law students are placing a premium on work-life balance and flexibility when it comes to their career values, rather than hunting down a corner office in a big law firm.

The report, entitled “Gen-Z: Now Influencing Today’s Law Firm Culture,” surveyed law students and young lawyers from around the world, with a focus on those attending the top 100 law schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

The survey found that while 70 percent of respondents said they plan to pursue a law firm career path, only 39 percent said they would join a BigLaw firm – down from 59 percent in a similar survey conducted in 2020.

What’s more, a combined 53 percent of respondents said they were interested in eventually transitioning to an in-house, government, or non-profit role long-term, compared to just 23 percent who hope to one day make partner at a law firm.

This shift in priorities reflects a growing desire among Gen-Z lawyers to prioritize work-life balance and flexible work arrangements over traditional career paths that may offer higher salaries but come with more demanding schedules.

When asked what would keep them in a BigLaw job long-term, respondents cited opportunities for advancement and the highest market salary as the primary factors.

However, they also indicated that long hours and working frequently on nights and weekends were strong motivators for leaving a BigLaw job, underscoring their feelings for the importance of work-life balance and flexibility for this generation, as they strive to achieve career success without sacrificing their personal lives.

Jacqueline Bokser LeFebvre, Managing Director and co-author of the survey, notes that “the results of this survey indicate Gen-Z continues to place an extremely high value on work-life balance and flexible work arrangements, a trend that has only been heightened amid the pandemic.”

Many Gen-Z lawyers are “giving more serious consideration to career paths that might pay less, but offer other benefits like flexible and remote work, part-time work policies, and mental health services and support.”

The survey also found that Gen-Z lawyers place significant weight on the moral values of their prospective employers, with 60 percent of respondents noting that corporate responsibility programs were important in their selection of a potential employer, and 63% reporting that a company’s social justice priorities would play a role in their decision-making process.

Nathan Peart, Managing Director, Practice Lead, and co-author of the survey, says that “perhaps more so than any other generation currently practicing law, this generation highly values social justice and altruism.”

He notes that this priority is merging with Gen-Z’s desire for work-life balance, leading many to consider “previously less-traditional paths like government or non-profit work.”

Key Findings

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Formal mentorship and training tied with competitive compensation as the most important factors for Gen-Z in selecting an employer.
  • The vast majority of Gen-Z respondents (79 percent) agreed that sexism within law firm culture remains a problem, indicating the urgent need for firms to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
  • Fifty-eight percent of respondents said optional reduced hours or part-time work policies are the most attractive mental health-related policies that an employer could offer.
  • Gen-Z lawyers would be willing to trade a portion of their compensation for work-life balance and loan assistance, with 62 -percent saying they would trade a portion of their compensation for more time off and 60 percent for a flexible work schedule.

Overall, the survey highlights the growing importance of work-life balance and flexibility for Gen-Z lawyers and law students, as well as their strong commitment to social justice and moral values.

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