“Long skirts, buttoned shirts, sober colours, black and white”, the law school texts say are the proper way to dress. This is one of the many laid down rules for lawyers in Nigeria – lawyers have always been known for their “black and white, wig and gown”. This has worked well for older generations but will this ever work for Gen Z?
The dressing of some persons for their call-to-the-bar pictures may answer this question. Once upon a time, lawyers went to studios for pictures after the call-to-bar ceremonies. This is because one could not put on the lawyer wig until one was asked to by the Chairman of the Body of Benchers who presided over the ceremony. Wearing the wig when a person had not been called was regarded as a sort of impersonation.
At the Call ceremony, after initial processions and formalities, the Chairman of the Body of Benchers (or their representative) will formally call the aspiring lawyers to the Nigerian Bar by announcing “YOU MAY NOW WEAR YOUR WIG.” The act of wearing the wig indicates that one has been called to the Bar, and is the only time when the aspiring lawyer is allowed to wear the wig. Even when a person took pictures with the wig before the call, it was kept hidden until later; Recent pictures flooding the social media timelines indicate that the incoming crop of lawyers is not that patient.
According to a 2023 editorial by Parents on “A Year-by-Year Guide to Different Generations and their parenting styles, Generation Z also known as Gen Z, zoomers, iGeneration, centennials, post-millennials, or Homelanders “are the first to be born into a world where they know nothing else besides being constantly connected to one another, albeit through phones, screens, and tablets”.
Gen Z is young, but the first wave has already passed through the college years and is entering the workforce in greater and greater numbers. Significantly, they are the most highly educated and heavily indebted cohort in history. According to 2021 report by the United States Statista Research Department, Gen Z makes up approximately one-fourth of the U.S. population. Gen Z is definitely a significant cohort in the populations of many countries.
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Generation Z is a unique generation, known for its tech-savvy nature, entrepreneurial spirit, and desire for flexible work arrangements. They are looking for careers that align with their values and provide a sense of purpose, and many view the traditional hierarchical structure of law firms and the conservative nature of the legal system as outdated and not in line with their aspirations.
When a new cohort enters the job market, companies face a transitional period where they must decide whether to maintain tradition or adapt to attract youthful talent. The furore surrounding the arrival of millennials in the workplace appeared unique, but it echoed similar struggles that Generation X faced with baby boomers (the predecessors of Generation X) in the 90s. In response to millennials, employers hastened to enhance workplace culture and adopt technology to cater to their employees’ preferences.
When millennials entered the legal field, first-year associates were expected to be reachable 24/7. Then COVID-19 came and its impact was felt. Law firms started offering more flexible work arrangements, including telecommuting options.
Similarly, Gen Z will seek a workplace that accommodates their schedule and leverages technology for remote work.
As Gen Z joins the legal profession, AI and other technological advancements are reshaping legal work. These associates can anticipate their firms utilizing AI for improved efficiency and automation of routine legal tasks, freeing up time for more strategic analysis and tackling more challenging cases. Despite speculation that technology may replace lawyers, the reality is that AI and other technological innovations will facilitate Gen Z associates in creating new pathways and transforming the industry significantly.
However, it is important to note that law is a highly versatile field that offers a range of opportunities for those willing to put in the effort and dedication. While the field may not be in line with the attitudes and expectations of Generation Z, it is a field that requires a strong work ethic, critical thinking skills, and passion. The legal profession is also evolving and adapting, offering new opportunities for those who are willing to challenge the status quo and work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable legal system.
In conclusion, while the law may not yet be a profession favoured by Generation Z, it is a field that requires a unique set of skills and attitudes and offers the potential to make a positive impact on society.