“Long skirts, button-down shirts, sober colors, black and white,” say the texts from the law school as an appropriate way to dress. This is one of the many rules laid down for lawyers in Nigeria – lawyers have always been known for their “black and white wig and gown”. This has worked well for previous generations, but will it ever work for Generation Z?
Some people’s outfit for their bar call photos can answer this question. Once upon a time, lawyers would go to studios to take pictures after bar call ceremonies. This is because one could not put on the lawyer’s wig until asked to do so by the President of the Corps of Judges who presided over the ceremony. Wearing the wig when no person had been called was considered a kind of impersonation.
At the convocation ceremony, after the initial processions and formalities, the President of the Judicial Corps (or his designee) will formally call the would-be lawyers to the Nigerian Bar Association by announcing “YOU CAN WEAR YOUR WIG NOW”. The act of wearing the wig indicates that one has been called to the Bar and is the only time the would-be lawyer may wear the wig. Even when a person took photos with the wig before the call, it was kept hidden until afterward; Recent images flooding social media timelines indicate that the incoming crop of lawyers is not so patient.
According to a 2023 Parents editorial 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 in a world where they know nothing more than to be constantly connected to each other, even if it is through phones, screens and tablets”.
Generation Z is young, but the first wave is well past their college years and entering the workforce in increasing numbers. Significantly, they are the most educated and most indebted cohort in history. According to the US Department of Research Statista’s 2021 report, Generation Z makes up about a quarter of the US 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 their 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 transition period in which they must decide whether to maintain tradition or adapt to attract young talent. The furor surrounding the arrival of millennials in the workplace seemed unique, but it echoed similar struggles Gen X faced with baby boomers (the predecessors of Gen X) in the 1990s. In response to millennials , employers rushed to improve workplace culture and adopt technology to meet the preferences of their employees.
When millennials entered the legal field, first-year associates were expected to be available 24/7. Then came COVID-19 and its impact was felt. Law firms began offering more flexible work arrangements, including telecommuting options.
Similarly, Gen Z will look for a workplace that accommodates their schedule and takes advantage of technology for remote work.
As Generation Z joins the legal profession, AI and other technological advances are reshaping legal work. These associates can anticipate their firms using AI to improve efficiency and automate routine legal tasks, freeing up time for more strategic analysis and tackling more challenging cases. Despite speculation that technology can replace lawyers, the reality is that AI and other technological innovations will make it easier for Gen Z associates to forge new paths and significantly transform the industry.
However, it is important to note that law is a very 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 Gen Z attitudes and expectations, 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 willing to challenge the status quo and work to create a more inclusive and equitable legal system.
In conclusion, while law may not yet be a profession favored by Gen Z, it is a field that requires a unique set of skills and attitudes and offers the potential to have a positive impact on society.