Switzerland’s most prominent lawyers explore the impact of the generational shift in the legal market and how younger lawyers approach the practice of law differently.

Work/life balance was not been discussed when I started as a young lawyer. However, it is reality today, and our younger lawyers balance their work and free time quite differently - maybe better than we did. It is a challenge though, as the expectations on both sides may collide at times.

Natalie Peter, Blum & Grob Attorneys at Law

To be very candid, a majority of the young generation (born 1985 and younger) works less and are not as ambitious anymore. The focus is on "good work, good money, more private life”. If society, clients especially, accept this in general as a new era in the services sector, then there will be no problem. If not, I ask myself, who will be the law firm leaders, in 10-15 years’ time, that can satisfy all the clients’ needs.

Otherwise, they of course are familiar with all the digitalised developments, which is obviously also a requirement. They exclusively work with online tools - books are history.

Markus Dörig, Badertscher Rechtsanwälte

Younger lawyers are more accustomed to working in teams, which allows them to better tackle the challenges coming from ever-increasing client expectations. It is my impression, however, that younger lawyers are less curious - curiosity being one of the most important features of a successful lawyer.

Michael Ritscher, Meyerlustenberger Lachenal

Younger lawyers are more tech-savvy and more adept at using all sorts of online tools and software features in their daily work. They contribute to the modernisation of how lawyers will work in the near future – relying more, for instance, on electronic files rather than paper files.

Nicolas Herzog, Niedermann Rechtsanwälte

I find that young lawyers often work shorter hours, are less willing to go the extra mile, are stronger in information technology and social media issues, and have different language skills than their predecessors (often better English, but worse German and French). For our firm, the most important thing is to support and promote the young colleagues who are willing to invest time in their careers over the years and thus to introduce them to their role as future partners.

Christoph Gasser, BianchiSchwald LLC

In our team, we are proud to have a working climate where younger lawyers can benefit from older lawyers, and older lawyers benefit from their younger colleagues. Younger lawyers communicate very well and are especially good at constantly adapting to new circumstances.

Simon Holzer, Meyerlustenberger Lachenal Ltd. (MLL)

The lawyers of the new generation are more focused and specialised than we were when I started work. Today's lawyers do not simply apply to a firm as "lawyer", but come with clear views of the field of law or sector in which they want to work and take care to be more broadly involved with the client than to provide just legal advice. This fits nicely with the way that we understand our role as real estate transaction lawyers within our firm.

Corrado Rampini, Bär & Karrer

The generational shift is refreshing our practice for the best. We are proud to have more young, talented women ascending. Younger lawyers use digital research as an important tool and understand different backgrounds because of their own internationality.

Patricia Guerra, Meyerlustenberger Lachenal AG

I am always astonished by how well trained and focused younger lawyers are. They have very clear expectations - from a work-life balance point of view as well. However, sometimes this comes at the price of being real entrepreneurs and, speaking frankly, sometimes there is also nothing wrong with have learned the lesson of failure - and standing up again.

Philippe Wenker, Blum&Grob Attorneys at Law Ltd

The legal world has become digital. The younger lawyers grow up with smartphones, tablet computers and laptops. The older generation struggles with IT and the paperless office. Younger lawyers hardly need assistants anymore and the law is found in the internet and not in old law treatises. Arbitrators of the older generation are more “hard copy-oriented” and therefore probably less efficient in the end. However, they still compensate for that deficit with long experience.

Christoph Pestalozzi, Lustenberger Rechtsanwälte KLG

Very frankly, they are not so easily convinced to do long hours on the basis that they may be able to access to the honey pot sometime in the future. Personally, I believe the development is good and bad. Good because life is more than just work, and the quality of our advice will be better if it is based on a more holistic (and less stressed) view on things. Bad because I still believe that hard work is the very best recipe for success and personal fulfilment. Life in Europe will be more challenging in 10-20 years from now. So again we (and in particular the younger generations) better get prepared.

Till Spillmann, Niederer Kraft Frey

The generational shift is definitely taking place and we have a great team of talented young lawyers. They work very enthusiastically and are extremely committed. They lend more weight to personal freedom and non-pecuniary rewards and benefits, even though some of the older ones are exactly like that too!

Thomas Reutter, Bär & Karrer

I am pleased that younger colleagues are very efficient at using IT, AI and internet-based tools, which makes their work more efficient compared to doing them the old way. They are the ones driving the firm towards adapting new technologies, which is extremely valuable – one simply cannot stand still in today’s fast-changing world.

Daniel Hochstrasser, Bär & Karrer 

We are going down the path of digitalisation and our younger lawyers have the perfect skillset for that, as most have an IT background or a high interest in it. Beside this, they are slower in a lot of areas than the experienced lawyers, and we try to give them time to learn.

Nicole Beranek Zanon, de la cruz beranek Attorneys-at-law Ltd

I do not think that the younger generation lawyers can be uniformly grouped. Each is an individual with his or her characteristics, ideas, goals, strengths and also weaknesses. Generally, I see clever young professionals who are eager to learn and to succeed. A big change exists in the use of electronics though: young lawyers adapt much quicker to new software and work techniques.

Jodok Wicki, CMS von Erlach Poncet Ltd

Our firm pays particular attention to the expectations of the younger generation, at both firm and client levels. At our firm's level, younger practitioners expect less rigid structures and more flexibility for the organisation of their time, allowing them (including men) to be more active at the family level. They also expect greater visibility in the market.

Pierre-Yves Gunter, Bär & Karrer

As transactions today are increasingly standardised, and because they are done in a much more efficient manner, organisational and execution skills of young lawyers have become more important – sometimes more critical than knowledge of the law itself.

Rolf Watter, Bär & Karrer

I see no great difference other that when we started our practice we were a small group of pioneers starting a law firm from scratch, taking risks and having fun developing it to one of the most respected law firms in Switzerland. The younger generation entered this established environment with different dynamics and expectations, but I am thrilled to see that they have similar energies in taking our firm into a new phase.

Alexander von Ziegler, Schellenberg Wittmer

As a tendency, today's generation of young lawyers adapt new ways of working easily and are open to different approaches to solving a problem. At the same time, they specialise early on in their career, which wasn't the case 10 or 20 years ago.

What we see increasingly, is that younger lawyers try to get an insight into the profession before they decide to embark on a career in a law firm.

 Tina Wüstemann, Bär & Karrer

This is an excerpt from WWL Thought Leaders: Switzerland. WWL Thought Leaders brings together the insight, expertise and wisdom of some of the world’s foremost lawyers and experts through interviews with the practitioners themselves.

Access our Thought Leaders series here – www.whoswholegal.com/thought-leaders