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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Generations & Law Firm Economics

It is good to see the Financial Times and Legal Week catching up with me from time to time (where have they been) talking about the rise of Generation Why in the work place - see previous blogs in this area.

A follow up to the Tony Angel article last week recognises the need to recognise this generation - however, it did miss quite a few points so I thought that I would provide a brief general caricature of the typical Generation Whyer

Generation Whyer Characteristics

ADAPT rapidly -- INNOVATE constantly -- ACCEPT OTHERS easily REBOUND quickly -- and are astoundingly LOYAL and COMMITTED!

They have the TIME, TOOLS, and the TALENT to create a better world and better results for your company and/or organisation and can multi task.

They want work that has meaning, creativity and flexibility. They are impatient multi taskers and like to PLORK (play and work).

Some commentators have even alluded to a quarter life crisis in the workforce as this demographic group are hitting the work place with it's very rigid structures and narrowly presented career options.

They see a career as a plural - ie they expect to have a number of careers.

They don't want to burn out as they have seen their parents burn out - they want a life and know that due to the lowering birth rate and the war for talent especially in knowledge workers that they are in the driving seat when professional service firms

Because they are a computer gaming generation - they are used to making analysis & decisions at a faster rate.

This last point is going to be somewhat handy as I feel that one of the dangers that lawyers face in the future is that the transferability of knowledge may mean that as the world becomes more and more connected has made it possible to off shore services that were considered non tradable.

Certain areas of the law may become subject to more competition and delivered electronically from anywhere in the world. Therefore people who are highly skilled in say property law may find that in the course of their professional career that they may have to re-train in a completely new area of the law. Any law job that can be standardised is highly vulnerable to being squeezed and eventually economic dictates will overide protectionist bodies like law societies.

It is not to say that China and India will have a comparative advantage in everything because it will take some time to train up their knowledge assets - so it may be that large firms will need to concentrate on the really value added work and off shore the work to other areas to keep their profit margins up. If they don't then it is likely that they will discover that the increasing competition will have a price deflationary effect.

Of course law firm managers still need to grasp the concept of vertical disintegration where they look to their internal supply chain and see what they can outsource whilst retaining the core areas that provide value by harnessing the unique areas of knowledge in their firms by reducing the time people have to spend on mundane tasks that were important once - but have been superseded by other sources.

Of course while we have the concept of clients willing to pay by the billable hour, there is no reason for law firms to review their processes as a number of other law economic commentators such as Bruce MacEwen have pointed out.

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