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What Gen Z lawyers are looking for

The executive director of the College of Law Queensland discusses the changes in the drivers and motivations of young lawyers. 

user iconJess Feyder 30 March 2023 Big Law
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Executive director of the College of Law Queensland, Ann-Maree David, spoke to Lawyers Weekly about her ongoing research into the changing generational drivers and motivations impacting education and professional expectations for young lawyers. 

Generation Z is looking for a particular workplace environment, noted Ms David. 

More than a job or even a career, Gen Z is seeking a workplace community in which they will learn and make a valuable contribution,” she explained. “One in which there will be opportunities to grow and thrive.”


“They are not looking for a career-long commitment; current statistics suggest 1.5 to two years in a post [graduate position] is becoming standard.” 

“There is no ill will intended; there is simply a need to move on to keep following opportunities and growth in one or more directions,” Ms David highlighted. 

“Organisations would be smart to stay connected with these leaders of tomorrow as they move around the country and the globe.” 

“Lifetime exposure to online learning and making social connections through tech platforms leaves Gen Z anticipating this type of thinking to be the norm in the workplace,” explained Ms David. 

“In terms of legal work, many are purpose-driven and seek to find employment in organisations where the values align with their own.” 

Having been with the College of Law for 20 years, Ms David has seen how the drivers and motivations of Gen Z have varied from those before. 

“We currently have four generations communing in the workforce — the Baby Boomers and Generations X, Y and now Z.

“Since 2019, Gen Z together with Gen Y have comprised the majority of the Australian workforce. By 2030, Gen Z will comprise a third of the Australian workforce,” Ms David illuminated. 

“Most interestingly, the bookend generations (Baby Boomers and Gen Z) are both chasing the same thing: flexibility and adaptability as they each strive to attain work/life integration!”

“While Baby Boomers are seeking workplace flexibility to ease into retirement, Gen Z is looking to work remotely to open doors to opportunities in other sectors, other cities, and indeed other countries.”

“Generation Z has already lived through and been shaped by extreme world events, including 9/11 and the war against terrorism, documented climate change, a global financial crisis and most recently a global pandemic, which restricted their every movement,” she highlighted. “These experiences have clearly impacted upon their lives and career aspirations.”

“Some commentators suggest linkages between those experiences and the higher rates of depression and mental illness arising among Generation Z,” noted Ms David. “They are, however, in equal measure resilient, future-focused, and purpose-driven.”

“Many are entrepreneurial, their CVs boasting independent ventures and/or side hustles among their earliest achievements.

“They have grown up with smartphones and learned to make meaningful social connections across digital platforms. 

“They anticipate that any workforce they join will mirror the society they engage with in terms of its diversity and fluidity and are quick to measure an organisation’s cultural capital in terms of its ability to walk the talk in terms of both inclusion and belonging for its employees and its clients,” she said. 

Ms David continued: “Gen Z looks to become a member of a workplace community — they seek a sense of community.”

“Previous generations sought these connections outside of work (through clubs, community organisations etc.). 

“In this and other ways, Gen Z may be the first to achieve work/life integration.” 

“They are driven by purpose and are sufficiently self-empowered to demand a seat at the table.

“Previous generations were happy to step up the ladder by populating young lawyer committees; now they seek — and attain — election to law society councils while still relatively junior practitioners,” she highlighted. 

Is Gen Z more or less incentivised by pay?

“While salary incentives may be attractive to any, and all generations, if we are talking retention, they are far outweighed by other factors,” Ms David told Lawyers Weekly. 

Ms David stated the factors outweighing pay:

  • Inclusive culture and, in particular, a strong sense of community; 
  • Purpose – Gen Z wants to know they can contribute to a shared vision; 
  • Recognition – they expect their contribution and the impact it has to be recognised and celebrated;
  • Wellbeing – Gen Z has watched those ahead of them burn out early in their careers; they will not stay and suffer the same fate.
More incentivised by altruism?

“Gen Z is looking for higher-order drivers — they want to know what impact a prospective employer is having and whether their organisational values ring true,” commented Ms David. 

They are interested in contributions to pro bono and corporate giving plans. 

“These facets of corporate culture also go to building a sense of engagement and belonging — something very dear to Gen Z,” she said. 

“Given meaning and purpose are so entwined with wellbeing, Gen Z is to be commended for looking to work in the service of something bigger than themselves.”