In the big decisions about the long-term future of the solicitor profession, the voices of the people who will constitute that future should be the loudest, argues Leanne Maund.
The YouGov poll taken after the EU referendum, which showed that 75 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted to remain (compared to 39 per cent of voters aged 60 and over), left many young people, including junior lawyers, with the view that they are being dragged into a future which the majority of them did not vote for, by those who will be less affected by it.
Given that the statistics show turnout was substantially higher in areas with a greater number of older residents, it is entirely possible that had more young people voted, the outcome of the referendum would have been different.
This article is not about Brexit, and nor is it about resentment between generations: the recent referendum is just used to demonstrate that the level of engagement is what makes the difference. Regardless of whether we are happy with the result, the lack of influence which the millennial vote had on the outcome of the referendum is a problem that goes beyond the question of whether we should be a part of the EU.
In the near future, there will be many changes to the legal profession, and I urge all junior lawyers to get involved.
The Law Society’s governance review, looking at its organisation and structure in the future, is ongoing. The Junior Lawyers Division is engaging in this process by giving our views on the kind of governance structure that can best serve our members in the future, and we look forward to seeing what happens next. Anyone can get involved in this by contacting the Law Society, or even standing for one of the seats on the Law Society Council. Beyond that, the government plans to consult on its proposals for independent legal regulation, possibly leading to total separation between the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Law Society. This will have a huge impact on what the Law Society will look like in the future, and how it can support us throughout our careers, and will affect junior lawyers more than any other group in the legal profession.
A second consultation on the proposed solicitors’ qualifying examination is also due in the autumn, and as junior lawyers, having recently gone through the process as it is now, we are best placed to comment on its failings and how these can better be addressed.
On top of all of this, junior lawyers will be dealing with the consequences and opportunities created by the referendum result, in addition to the much-publicised developments in legal technology which will change the way in which we practise moving forwards.
As we have seen recently, if we do not actively engage in proposals to change the profession, decisions will be made without us. In the big decisions about the long-term future of our profession, the voice of the people who will constitute that future should be the loudest. Apathy and complacency risk junior lawyers having to deal with unwanted consequences, long after today’s decision makers hand over to the next generation.
Within your place of work, your community, and your profession, get involved, form a view, and express it. You can make a difference.
This article was first published by Solicitors Journal on 12 July 2016 and is reproduced by kind permission.