Introduction: Alex Speirs

Alex Speirs, Editor-in-Chief of GC magazine, explains why The Legal 500 has worked with Clifford Chance to profile some of the firm’s rising lawyers for their insights on navigating change in the industry, and remaining flexible. The collection of stories reveals that the stereotypical, well-trodden pathway to law is far from the sole entry point to the profession.

Our latest collaboration with Clifford Chance, Their Voices: Insights from Today’s Rising Lawyers, chronicles the journeys and stories of a selection of the next generation of lawyers, written and compiled by the team at GC magazine.

The collection of stories reveals that the stereotypical, well-trodden pathway to law is far from the sole entry point to the profession. In the past, anything but a complete commitment to the law – and nothing but the law – may have been considered a detriment, whereas now diversity of experience, both personal and professional, is characterizing the next generation of entrants. Those featured in the pages that follow embody this change, hailing from a range of backgrounds with law a second career for many – some in tangentially related industries, others hailing from a past which couldn’t be further from the law – but all bringing with them an insight as unique as it is valuable.

The interviews that underpin this publication also reveal a profession in the midst of change, as the realities of working at a law firm in the 21st century ring true for all the right reasons. The impact of technology is creating opportunities for new ways of working, increased flexibility and the chance to fundamentally reimagine how lawyers should – and do – operate. With this newest cohort of entrants hailing from a generation of digital natives, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of those featured are showing leadership and helping drive this change, but the willingness of senior partners and management to respond by empowering some of their newest members in such a positive fashion illustrates the changing dynamics apparent in a modern law firm.

Helping to facilitate that change at Clifford Chance, particularly for new entrants to the firm, has been Erin Zucker, the firm’s dedicated assignment manager, who has been instrumental in transforming the experience of first-year law clerks and associates. Instead of specializing at the commencement of their professional career or operating under the rigidity of the typical six-month rotation, most new entrants now enter a pool for a two-and-a-half-year period, during which time they are exposed to assignments across the firm’s transactional practices. That very exposure – to a broad selection of practices and practitioners – offers the opportunity to glean an insight into what their own future could hold, while developing well-rounded lawyers with a more holistic understanding of the profession.

When considered in the context of a world (and business environment) that is increasingly globalized, one with less defined boundaries and practice areas that no longer operate in silos, bringing together the aforementioned threads – diverse pathways, modern working practices and holistic approaches to training – no longer seems like nice-to-haves, but rather professional imperatives.

The stories that follow paint a picture of progression and much-needed modernization for the next generation of lawyers. And while change can be a scary word, based on my interactions with those who generously gave their time as part of this undertaking, I can confidently say that if this is what the future leaders of the legal profession look like, we’re in good hands.

Alex Speirs, Editor-in-Chief, GC magazine