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  • Writer's pictureJaap Bosman

Your 2022 Booster Shot

Remember how positive and full of inspiration we entered into the new decade two years ago? Seems like ages. Hard to imagine how ignorant we were about how things would unfold when the new decade was just two months in progress. March 2020 our entire world entered into full crisis mode.

None of us imagined back then that two years down the line the world would still struggle to get to grips with the situation. As we enter into 2022, the Covid virus still rules our lives and dominates the news. The vaccines, developed with amazing speed, turned out not to be the ‘life saver’ expected to be. So far we all need at least one booster shot to get out of this misery.

Legal industry

Meanwhile the legal industry is breaking record after record. Law firms are reporting their best years on record. Lawyers have done extremely well the past two years. The drivers behind the growth are an abundance of liquidity in combination with almost unprecedented uncertainty and disruption.

The side effects of this tsunami of work have become painfully visible. Many lawyers, even partners, are overworked, suffering mental health issues or burn-out. The numbers of young lawyers resigning have grown. Scrambling to attract adequate replacement, this raises the burden on the ones that carry-on.

“The ability to attract, develop and keep talent will become the key differentiator for law firms”

Before we descend into doom thinking, I would like you to take one step back and be proud of yourselves. I’m not joking! The legal industry is not only incredibly successful, but also extremely professional and well organized. Client satisfaction ratings are verry high. Law firms are, but for a few exceptions, a great place to work. They have a strong culture and camaraderie. From a financial perspective one would struggle to find business models that are equally profitable.

The problem is that lawyers rarely, if ever, take that step back and be proud of their achievements. Perpetually lawyers are obsessed with flaws and risks. This never ending focus on the negative, while part of the success, is also mentally exhausting.

Like a Formula-1 motorsports team, law firms relentlessly focus on every little detail as the know that there lies the difference between winning or losing. Unlike Formula-1, lawyers never take the time to celebrate and recover. After winning the World Championship on 12 December, Max Verstappen took time off. Judging from the news, he still is on holiday today. Unlike Max, most lawyers kept working until Christmas eve and have reported back to duty after New Year. If anything, allow yourself that morale booster shot. Be proud of what you have achieved!

Talent is the next battleground for law firms

If you cannot take care of yourself, how can you take care of others? Relentlessly focused on their practice and always anxious not to make even the tiniest mistake, law firm partners can be extremely demanding to their team of associates. Irregular workloads and working hours, intense scrutiny and verbal and emotional abuse are not unheard of. The problem is that the younger generation is not accepting this anymore.

The present generation of partners have all grown up in what they think are similar conditions. They also had to do all-nighters, skip social events, holidays and family gatherings, have also likely been shouted at from time to time. The difference is that compared with today, the real workload back then was relatively mild. The other differentiator is that Baby Boomers have a very different perspective on what matters in life than the Millennials and Generation-Z now joining the workforce. The Baby Boomers knew that their social and economic situation would only get better. For the present day generations this is not the case as it will likely get worse.

Associate turnover rates at AmLaw 100 firms reached nearly 25% last year, up from about 19%. Last year a large number of law firms have thrown large sums of money at it, but despite big salaries and round after round of bonuses, associate attrition rates are spiking, too. The present day generation of lawyers does not want to be seen as a ‘production asset’ or just another cog in the billing machine. They don’t want to be considered resource that can be bought with money. Todays talent wants to be seen and treated as human individuals and not as legal ‘sex workers’ providing a service without any personal emotions.

This is not a ‘pussy generation’

Baby Boomers often speak of the younger generation in a disparaging manner. They are described as entitled, weak and sometimes lazy. Some call them the ‘Snowflake’ generation. It is important to stress that this does not do them justice and it more than counterproductive.

The younger generation is equally, if not more, talented than their parent’s generation. They are also absolutely willing to go the extra mile. One just has to look at today’s sports records or the large number of successful start-ups for example. The key-differentiator is that the younger generation is not for sale. They are willing to give it all they’ve got, but only in exchange for personal growth. Law firms are well advised to change course and start offering professional and structural personal development opportunities for talent.

For us at TGO Consulting, helping our clients design, roll-out and maintain a smart development program, tailored to individual needs and preferences will be an important strategic focal point in 2022. Our TGO-360 evaluation tool has proven to provide a solid base of associates and partners alike. Perhaps you should inquire and find out how we could help you being successful in 2022 and beyond.


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