How will demographic and generational changes affect your law practice going forward?
Do you sometimes feel confused by terms like boomers, millennials, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z? Who is who? Let’s demystify this for once and all.
Baby boomers were born between 1944 and 1964. They’re current between 56-76 years old. There are 76 million baby boomers in the U.S.
In India, 10.4% of our population as per 2016 estimates belong in this category.
Because of the cultural context from which this term evolved, we do not use this term to refer to Indians, but the other few terms are abundantly used.
Gen X was born between 1965 – 1980 and is currently between 41-55 years old. There are 82 million people in this category in the U.S. In India, this is 15.7% of our population.
Gen Y, or Millennials, were born between 1981 – 1996. They are currently between 26-40 years old.
In India, millennials are 24.9% of our population.
In the US, demography experts break down Millenials or Gen Y in two categories:
- Gen Y.1 = 25-29 years old (31 million people in the U.S.)
- Gen Y.2 = 29-39 (42 million people in the U.S.)
This is because these two categories of people have very different priorities due to being in different stages in life.
By this definition, I am a millennial. For a while, I used to wrongly think that millennials are people who were born in the new millennium i.e. post-2000. Turns out I was dead wrong.
Finally, Gen Z. These are the youngest people amongst us apart from infants. Gen Z was born between 1995 – 2015. They are currently between 5-25 years old. Thre are nearly 74 million of them in the U.S. In India Gen Z in a solid 39% of our population.
The demographic dividend we talk about in India will come from this category. India’s future is definitely in the hands of Gen Z.
Interesting times ahead!
Marketers, product developers, tastemakers often try to predict how the trend will change as the younger generations become more influential.
Will consumer behaviour change?
Does advertising need to change?
What will they be buying more of?
Where will they buy?
Who will be spending more money on the kind of services you offer? Should you focus on the boomers or Gen X?
For instance, people from those generations may value face time with their lawyers and may prefer to use the same lawyer for all their work over the years.
Should you focus on gen Z? Then I am guessing your practice needs to look quite different.
To appeal to gen Z, you definitely need cutting edge websites, social media presence and they may prefer quick online interactions more than having to visit their lawyer in a chamber or office!
They are used to fast internet and very advanced mobile devices, they get all services online, impersonally, and how you deliver services to them should take that into account.
It can be quite a disaster if you are giving the Gen Z treatment to Gen X and vice versa.
One way to do well in the future is to start reading the writing on the wall today
Remember that members of Gen Z have already begun to graduate and join the workforce. It will be a few more years before they become serious buyers of legal services. However, this is an inevitability a few more years down the line.
Given the depth and breadth of the changes on the cards, it is probably a good idea for all lawyers and law firms to reflect and think through their strategy. If you do, you will get a few years of prep time!
Here are a few things we can foretell today and trends that are already noticeable:
Your law practice needs an internet presence and engagement strategy
Generation X and to a certain extent millennials are bulk of the clients today. These people are used to determine brand and trust in a very different way – offline events, awards and recognitions, face to face meetings, referral from trusted colleagues, or friends – these things still work.
Gen Z does not quite operate in that way. They pay attention to online influencers.
They see online followership and strong social presence as a marker of a strong brand.
It is highly likely that the lawyers will be judged by their online presence and level of influence.
Gen Z is much more likely to watch some videos online or read some blogposts before deciding what to do if they got a notice from the tax guys or contemplating a divorce. They might even ask their online network for suggestions and recommendations rather than going to the friendly neighbourhood lawyer uncle.
If you are able to engage and wow Gen Z online, and they can connect with your brand, there is a much higher chance that they will come to you rather than anyone else that didn’t think through their online engagement strategy.
Remember that the first few Gen Z lawyers have already graduated from law school and are already working as lawyers. Some of them have set up their own practices too. Online engagement comes naturally to them, and then know how to connect to this new generation of clients. The effect of this will be clear in another 3-4 years as Gen Z begins to become more entrenched in their career.
Law practice is about to become more online
Compared to the other generations, Gen Z clients will be more comfortable never meeting their lawyers.
This means practices are less likely to remain locally concentrated in the future, especially given the likely advent of digital courts where a lawyer is not stopped from appearing in a court merely because of distance.
Lawyers and clients may prefer not to meet, in the interest of time and convenience, and still serve every need.
Is your practice equipped to deal with clients fully digitally in the future?
This is going to be an important aspect as far as Gen Z clients are concerned. This is the first generation for which digital interaction is essential and personal meetings are optional.
That is a very big shift for the legal industry!
Less regard for authority and establishment
Gen Z has grown up with a disregard for authority and established brands.
In fashion, consumer products, food choice, politics – everywhere they are looking for something else rather than what is already established norm, something edgy and unique, something they can discover that has not been discovered before.
They love being tastemakers and pioneers. They also advocate on social media for the brands and causes they identify with, in a way that is unprecedented.
Of course, not everyone is the same, but from what we are seeing in the consumer space, Gen Z does not like mainstream! And they are more ready to experiment with new things than ever. New brands are taking birth faster than ever in human history.
This means established brands have a harder time winning over this new generation, and loyalty is a relatively alien concept here.
If we can expect some of this to play out in the legal industry when Gen Z become serious buyers of legal services, we will see a lot of new legal tech, a lot of new lawyers and law firms rather than clients running after the same old big law firms and clients. Even corporations driven by Gen Z leaders will probably be more willing to experiment than what we are used to today. Competing with them will not be exactly easy!
Also, engaging customers in a way they love your brand (yes, as a lawyer or law firm, you have a brand) and pass on an endorsement or leave a good review will be more important than ever. This was never a problem for lawyers so far, but it is about to become a major concern! Lawyers and law firms with strong customer delight policies will have a huge advantage.
We can expect a more diverse legal fraternity
To start with, it will probably get you cancelled to call the legal fraternity a fraternity going forward and Gen Z will come up with more sensitive vocabulary.
Today there is appalling lack of diversity in the legal profession.
Judges are not elevated because of their sexual orientation or religion. There are hardly any female judges in the judiciary. Female senior advocates are few and far between. Trans community is not really represented in the legal profession.
As Gen Z lawyers start to fill the ranks of the bar and bench 10 years down the line, you can expect all that to decisively change.
Expect a surge in litigation, drafting and advisory work
Gen X was not very big on legal. It is one thing when a lot was at the stake, such as a big investment or a large corporation, or personal liberty that they will approach and pay a lawyer. But people from that generation mostly preferred to avoid the lawyers and legal system otherwise.
The sky had to fall before someone wanted to go to court.
It was unheard of for an employee to drag their employer to court, for example.
However, that is not quite the case anymore.
Millennials have already shown a greater tendency to enter into contracts rather than trust oral arrangements, and are hiring lawyers more frequently. That is why you see more small businesses and individuals going to lawyers, making smaller law practices thrive and prosperous.
Ethics and personal values are very important to Gen Z. They are used to taking more entrenched public positions and embrace conflict than any generation before them. This generation will engage lawyers and look for legal resolutions to disputes more often than any previous generations.
In the same vein, access to justice will become a huge public cause in the next 10-15 years. Other generations have treated access to justice as pretty much optional. That will not be the case with Gen Z. They will demand access to justice as a matter of right, and it would become an increasingly politicized issue.
You better learn to make videos
Millennials grew up reading blogs, magazines, and newspapers. Not Gen Z.
They are YouTube, TikTok, Twitch generation.
Lawyers who wrote well and published articles in newspapers and magazines or blogged frequently got noticed and did well so far. However, the way to reach out to the new generation of clients will be through short videos.
This means lawyers who are conversant with this new medium and learn to disseminate information and can make an impact through this medium will have a huge advantage over the rest.
Across industries, video ads on the internet have already taken over everything else.
However, the legal market lags behind in these trends because usually, it is the older people who buy legal services, not kids. So far, writing articles still does wonders for lawyers’ careers. However, the future is clearly in a video!
Expect massive digitization and primacy of legal tech-driven by Gen Z lawyers
Legal practice by Gen Z will be digital-first. They are setting up revolutionary legal tech products probably as we speak.
They are likely to lead the next wave of legal tech. They will see technology as their advantage over older lawyers with more resources, brand capital, and experience.
The legal practice today is full of inefficiencies and the stage is ripe for the Gen Z lawyers to disrupt the older law practices with more efficient systems, backed by VC money.
Legal tech has picked up steam around the world and legal tech is getting more funding than ever. What we really need though, are some ambitious, breakthrough products, which seem to be missing in India so far.
This does not mean that older generations will fade away. Baby Boomers are still a cultural and economic force to reckon within the USA for example. Gen X and Y will continue to be the bulk of legal clients for the next 20 years at least and it is not like older law firms and lawyers who are not digitally prepared are going to go out of business.
However, the emerging legal market looks quite different and is very exciting. A lot of stuff that will look quite incredible to the established legal market of today is about to unfold.
Who wants to miss out on this action?
What has LawSikho been doing for this?
I am a millennial, as I said before. However, I have spent enough time with Gen Z to know that it’s not business as usual.
For starters, I abandoned our single-minded focus on written content, both in our courses as well as in terms of our blog, and focused on video. Today our content team spends the bulk of the time creating video libraries just as our marketing team is increasingly creating video content. I am personally not very comfortable or conversant with the video medium, but I am trying to change that.
We are of course an online-first company, with next to nil offline engagement, especially after the pandemic. We introduced remote work, a favourite of Gen Z about 4 years back, already.
We have constantly made an effort to learn how to engage better online, which does not help us to just connect with Gen Z but everyone else as well!
We have worked a lot to build a presence on YouTube over the last 1 year and it has finally begun to pay off. We would like to do the same for other visual social media like Instagram but we have not made much progress so far.
I also make it a point to hire Gen Z law graduates and put them in key marketing and sales positions. We have also built our courses focusing on a younger demographic and that helped. We do get a lot of millennials and some Gen X as our clients too, but those people are incredibly advanced compared to their peers and not the norm. We know this.
And we have built courses for Gen Z lawyers, covering Gen Z emerging issues, things that none of you can afford to miss. Check out the courses below that are open for enrollment as of today:
- If you are interested in corporate governance, you should check out the diploma in Companies Act, Corporate Governance and SEBI Regulations;
- If you want to get that in-house counsel job, go check out the diploma in Business Laws for In-House Counsels;
- If Industrial and Labour Laws interest you, go take a look at that diploma course;
- The Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws will be booming in the coming times, if you’re inclined towards that career, check out that diploma course;
- If you’re sure that your niche lies in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE & VC transactions), go check out that course;
- The Cyber Law, Fintech Regulations and Technology Contracts is in dire need of good young talent if that is what ticks for you, go check out that course; and
- Every young lawyer should check out our diploma course in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution.
Check out our other executive courses which can be helpful:
- We have a certificate course in Advance Corporate Taxation;
- You can also check out this course for Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code;
- If Trademark, Licensing; Prosecution and Litigation interest you, we have a course for that;
- LawSikho also teaches Competition Law, Practice and Enforcement in a course;
- Technology Contracts will be essential to every business in the future, you can check out that certificate course; and
- Knowledge about Banking & Finance Practice: Contracts, Disputes & Recovery is essential for every BigLaw layer, you can check that out too.
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