How to Make It: Gen Z and the Legal Profession, Part 4 — Retaining Talent: How Big Law, Young Lawyers, and Legal Tech Come Together

Big Law, Generation Z, and Legal Technology — A Conversation With Joshua Lenon of Clio

Joshua Lenon Interview—Part 4

How do Big Law, new young lawyers, and improvements in legal technology all come together? Is there a Venn diagram showing where they meet?

I absolutely think there is. It’s cliché, but oftentimes when there’s a technology issue, we see the stereotype of the older lawyer asking the younger lawyer how to do these things. But a lot of the improvements that can be made in law firms and the provision of legal services are things that have been adopted by other businesses, by other industries, by the clients that these law firms are servicing. They are a common everyday experience for younger lawyers.

An example would be booking an appointment with a professional online. I can book an appointment with my doctor via their website. Same with a dentist. Same with an accountant, right? But a lot of law firms don’t give that agency to the client.

Younger lawyers who are utilizing these changes in client experience are better positioned in a law firm to spot these opportunities and help position them in a way that is both in the interest of the client and the law firm. I want to stress that second one because legal technology is a bit unique in that we really do have to balance several duties. The duty to the client, the duty as an officer of the court, the duty as an advocate to the rule of law, being a partner within a law firm, and the unique legal responsibility of partners to each other that don’t always exist in other businesses. Law firms have to balance all of that, and legal technology allows these younger lawyers with their lived experience and their expertise to bring the right technology together and help the partners enable them for existing clients and existing legal services.

So the Venn diagram is very much overlapping between those three things. But it will take buy-in from all sides on how to bring that together.

At Clio, we’ve seen that as we work with law firms, we have to engage a whole variety of stakeholders within the law firm itself to make sure we’re the right fit. For example, we have a chat bot feature built right into Clio manager, and so if you’re a Gen Z lawyer and you’ve got a question about a feature, you can just type a quick chat bot question. It’ll pull up a video or an article, or ask if you want to speak to a customer representative. And that’s very much a Gen Z self-help workflow.

Whereas for lawyers of a different generation, their first response is “I’m going to call somebody,” and that’s why we have an 800 number and live support.

How much of this needs to be lawyer to lawyer? Is there a “you can’t understand what I mean” mentality coming from older attorneys?

It does exist, but I don’t think it’s as widespread as everybody thinks.

Does legal technology need to enter a law firm via a lawyer? Yes, 100% yes, but that’s in part the unique structure of law firms, where the final veto is always the lawyer.

If the managing partner says no, there’s no way around that. And the junior attorneys and the IT administrators and the office managers all ultimately answer to the law firm partners, right? That unique structure means that the lawyers always have to be both an advocate and an adopter of legal technology.

Now, is it the case that they can only learn from lawyers? I think the answer to that is 100% “No.” So legal tech has to come through the lawyers, but they don’t have to learn from lawyers. I think one of Clio’s amazing insights is that the legal profession can learn from outside best practices, but often needs the examples to be couched in something that they understand.

What else is important to know that we don’t always talk about?

I think one of the things that we don’t always talk about when it comes to law firms and retaining talent is how easy it is to open a law firm.

If you’re not doing right by your lawyers, there’s never been a better time to open your own law firm. If you think about it, you don’t have to have an office anymore. You can start your law firm without having real estate. You don’t have to invest in a huge amount of technology. A really difficult part for young law firms was they would bootstrap and then once things became too much then they would invest in technology. Now I can start my practice management for like 60 bucks as opposed to: go out and hire an IT guy, buy a server, have a place to put that server, then go to somebody like Thomson Reuters and pay them $20,000 for software that’s already out of date and doesn’t come with support. So, opening a law firm in the past was very capital-intensive, and opening a law firm now is a weekend project.

So, if you’re really concerned about the generational health of your law firm, making sure that the law firm continues to service clients for the entirety of their legal needs, that we’re building a lasting foundation that will benefit the rising lawyers, as well as the existing partners well into the future, then I need to understand that if I’m not doing right by my employees, they can just go and do right by themselves.

For more career advancement advice and success stories, check out the “How I Made It” Q&A and “How to Make It” series on Law.com.

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