Gen Z lawyers prioritise balance and values over big law firms, survey finds

updated on 15 May 2023

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A new survey has found that aspiring lawyers in generation Z (gen Z) (born between 1995-2012) are 60% less likely to join the US’s largest 200 firms than they were three years ago.

The global survey was carried out between January and March this year by leading recruitment firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, revealed that aspiring solicitors are increasingly looking past the lure of the largest global law firms and are instead prioritising firms with a greater work/life balance. 

Jacqueline Bokser LeFebvre, a managing director at Major, Lindsey & Africa, said that the results “indicate gen Z continues to place an extremely high value on... flexible work arrangements”, later adding “while they of course recognise that law firm life will entail some late-night or weekend work, many don’t expect or want these long hours to be a frequent occurrence”.

When asked what would push them to leave a law firm, respondents – made up of students at the top 100 law schools, young clerks and newly qualified lawyers – often answered that practices “not aligned with their interests/long-term goals”, or “not aligned with their values” would be a driving factor, suggesting a greater emphasis on personal values than previous generations.

Just under 80% of respondents revealed that they believed a “sexist culture” exists within the profession, while 65% noted that they took a firm’s racial, ethnic and gender makeup into consideration when applying for firms.  

In addition, more than 50% of survey respondents said they hoped to ultimately work in-house, in a government role or for a non-profit organisation.

DLA Piper UK LLP’s global co-chair, Frank Ryan, defended large law firms, stating that they remain “an incredible place to learn” and allow staff to “feed their soul” with pro bono work.

“I think law firms can do a better job of explaining to young lawyers… that we do a lot of great things in society too”, he added, emphasising the role private practice has in ensuring people have fair representation.