Bridging the generation gap in law firms
By AdvocateDaily.com Staff
Legal firms will need to become more tech-savvy as members of Generation Z graduate from law school and join the workforce, says Alan Bass, president of Korbitec Inc., a Toronto software development company that provides products to the legal profession.
But Gen Zers, who were born starting roughly in the mid-1990s, have grown up with technology and are wedded to electronic devices and social media, and they will have to adapt to a more conservative environment in law firms, where security is paramount, he says.
“This is a generation that’s not used to being held or tethered by a cord, whether it’s a landline, a cable or an internet connection. The world is wireless to them,” Bass tells AdvocateDaily.com.
That reality poses challenges for law firms that have only just begun to adapt to members of Generation Y — also known as millennials — who were born in the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, he says. While millennials are more adept at using technology than earlier generations, “Gen Z is like something on steroids,” he adds.
“Law firms have been very careful and cautious about remote users. It’s a security issue, because client information is very sensitive data,” Bass explains. For Gen Z, “their life is mobile. They work on stuff everywhere and anywhere. It’s going to be really interesting to see how law firms bridge that gap.”
Because firms deal with highly confidential information, Bass says, “huge investments are going to have to be made in security. But law firms typically aren’t on the leading edge of technology,” despite showing signs of improvement.
He predicts that at some point, a happy medium will have to occur, where law firms become more technologically sophisticated and Gen Zers accept the importance of security and confidentiality.
“Their trust of life online in the personal realm cannot extend to the work environment,” he adds.
Professional services firm Deloitte released a report in June, titled Canadian Legal Landscape 2017, which says law firms are failing to make good use of technology and reap its benefits.
“The majority of law firms surveyed are considering adopting some form of new technology within the next five years; however, there remains uncertainty regarding which types of technology should be adopted,” the report says. “Firms are aware that they are at a technological crossroads, but they are unsure of which way to go.”
Bass says that for the most part, law firms have been “very slow and methodical” to use cloud computing, which stores information over the internet instead of on a computer’s hard drive, and allows users to work remotely.
“As its security is upgraded, I think law firms will have a greater comfort to move information into the cloud, and that will improve mobility issues,” he says.
In the past 10 years, Bass says, he’s seen significant growth in the amount of innovation in legal technology and processes, and that’s largely due to a couple of factors.
The first is that millennials, many of whom have been in the workforce for more than a decade, are encouraging firms to adopt a quicker way of doing things, he says, while the second involves changes in the legal marketplace.
“It’s becoming much more of a buyer’s market, and clients are looking for law firms that are efficient” because they don’t want to pay for inefficiencies, Bass says.
His company is working to help law firms increase their performance by “making incremental improvements” to its software and technology to accommodate the move toward greater mobility and to boost speed, he says.
“If somebody has to wait eight seconds for a document to generate, they say it’s unbelievably slow,” he adds.
While law firms are still stocked with legal books, Bass says, “There’s so much material online. I can’t see a Gen Z, and maybe even a Gen Y, cracking a book to find information.”