New Lawyers Are Proving to Be a Conservative Bunch

One of the puzzling things I have noticed about new lawyers is that they tend to come out of law school thinking like 50 year old lawyers – and not like the digital natives they are. In general they don’t seem to think like their peers who have pursued callings other than law. And that’s not a good thing. 

That seems strange to a digital immigrant like myself, who embraces things like a paperless practice and social media. We sometimes wonder why law students are not pushing us into this world and demanding new and innovative approaches, rather than the other way around.

At HP we find ourselves training students and young lawyers on how to use social media, and encourage them to blog, tweet and move away from the traditional methods of practicing law. Because we know that the one certain thing about the future of the practice of law is that it won’t look like it does today.

Is it the type of person who is attracted to law school and the practice of law in the first place, is it the historical perception of how lawyers practice, or is it law school itself that promotes the traditional approach?

More importantly, how do we ensure that our future lawyers are better prepared for the rapid change they undoubtedly will face?

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Comments

  1. Very interesting. I think our perception in the academy is that law students are much more conservative about using social media than they were 5 years ago because of the perception that future employers are doing background checks on applicants that incluge reviewing their web presence and profile. Law students are risk adverse (if they were risk-takers they would be at business school) so many choose to avoid social media rather than thinking about ways to positively promote their professional profile – like we are doing on Student Week this week on Slaw. Adam Dodek, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

  2. The perception is that for those looking for articles or 1st year positions there’s simply very little to gain and a lot to lose with social media. Any foible will be used against you, but even masterful and responsible use will not advance your chances of employment with the vast majority of potential employers (the hiring managers are looking for lawyers not marketing, sales or public relations reps.).

    Even if a student’s social media use is kept as “private” as possible, potential employers sometimes demand the log-in information to an applicant’s social media account. Given the risk (and absence of reward) it’s safest simply to be able to reply you don’t have an account.

    Any business student could see that the risk/reward ratio for law applicants simply isn’t worth it.

  3. David, I’ve done some teaching to PR students who would be roughly in the same age group. I noticed that even they–who will be representing organizations in social media and who are expected to be in this space–are reluctant to jump in. They say “I will do it if I have to for work.”

    Younger people may be tech savvy, but they tend to use technology to connect with their close ties via more personal technology applications such as chat and sms. It is as we get older that we typically seek out the looser ties, the looser connections (i.e. networking).

    Many in this age group have also been raised by their parents with the belief that there are predators online and that they should not be publicly visible. Those that are there prefer anonymity.

    Law is about identifying and preventing risk. So why, as EM has explained, would young lawyers take a risk?