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Legal incubator programs are poised for continued growth, Techshow speaker says

Legal incubator programs providing space and support for newly admitted lawyers in exchange for representing underserved clients first gained great traction in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which left many recent law graduates seeking employment alternatives.

But Anne-Marie Rábago, the former director of two incubators, said even as the legal job market has improved in subsequent years, attorneys have continued to join the growing number of programs assisting practitioners hanging up their shingles.

“So rather than this being something lawyers did because they had to, it became something that they were doing because they wanted to,” Rábago said during an ABA Techshow 2021 session Thursday.

She attributed this trend to an increasing desire among law graduates to pursue purpose-driven legal work, noting that incubator attorneys have historically focused on serving clients of modest means.

Rábago also said she expects that law graduates will be increasingly interested in participating in incubators moving forward based on various research about what drives millennials and initial research about the characteristics of members of Generation Z, who will soon be joining the legal profession.

During her session titled “The Value Proposition of Legal Incubators: Today and in the Future,” Rábago referenced research indicating that millennials prefer flexible work options and are motivated by mission and purpose more so than money. She said early studies indicate that “Generation Z is similarly motivated by social conscience, perhaps even a deeper social conscience than their millennial predecessors.”

“All of these characteristics sound to me like skewing towards solo practice, being able to write your own playbook, being able to choose your own clients, being able to develop your own mission, values and purpose for your firm,” Rábago said.

Rábago has experience working with incubators, having directed the California Western School of Law’s Access to Law Initiative from July 2015 to October 2016. She left that role to lead the Texas Opportunity & Justice Incubator through last month.

Rábago has since founded Modern Juris, a community that intends to provide support to legal incubator programs and entrepreneurial lawyers.

“There is a tremendous business opportunity for lawyers who are able to find entrepreneurial and different ways to serve clients who are currently not being served,” Rábago said.

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