There are any number of myths about Millennial lawyers. They’re lazy. They have a sense of entitlement. They’re disloyal. These are myths. Just like every generation before them, Millennials are different from the last. And they have a tremendous contribution to make to your law firm, if you’ll work with them, not against them.
If you are not considering the needs of Millennial lawyers in your staffing model, your firm is suffering. You may not feel it now, but you will. In her book, You Raised Us – Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams, Lauren Stiller Rikleen, provides a comprehensive handbook for understanding, recruiting, developing and retaining a Millennial workforce. I highly recommend it!
- They are taking over the profession.
According to reporting by the American Bar Association, by the end of this decade Millennials will make up 75 percent of law firm staff. Whether or not you are ready, the era of the Millennial lawyer is here.
- They want an inclusive firm culture and they want to contribute . . . now.
They are more diverse than previous generations. They have lived in a world in which the internet has always been available. This gives them a global perspective and connection to the world that previous generations have not had. It also means that Millennials are “digital natives.” They want (expect) that the firm will use the best technology it can reasonably afford.
With respect to inclusivity, think of the language you use. The terms partner and associate convey a hierarchy that – although it exists – may be counter to Millennial engagement. Instead, consider terms like “colleague.” Colleague connotes equality. It conveys trust and can motivate an attorney to step up to the plate if they are seen as an equal part of the team.
Millennials want to make a contribution immediately. Consider how this might inform your firm’s partnership track. What worked for Baby Boomers, in terms of “waiting your turn,” will not work for Millennials. They want to make a difference now. How can your firm capitalize on this enthusiasm?
- They are committed to the concept of “doing well by doing good.”
With respect to your law firm, think of this concept as the ability to create a financially successful law firm while engaging in benevolent or charitable activities. These activities can include encouraging attorneys to provide pro bono service, and not “dinging” them on their billable hours. Or it might include taking on projects and supporting organizations that are unrelated to the practice of law. These projects could have a local focus such as supporting a local animal shelter or food bank. Or they could be more globally focused such as supporting ocean clean-up efforts or sponsoring entrepreneurship in developing countries through organizations like Kiva.
Take the time to explore these ideas within your law firm. You will be rewarded for it.
- They want mentors.
The legal profession has a long history of talking about mentorship. Unfortunately, all to often, it is only talk. Over the years, bar associations have tried to fill the mentorship void by creating programs to match more experienced lawyers with newer lawyers. Sometimes these programs can work, but what Millennials want is a mentor (or mentors) within their own firm.
Millennial lawyers have grown up with all sorts of mentors in their personal lives from their parents, to coaches, to teachers. They want mentorship in their work lives as well. Firms that create meaningful mentorship programs will not only contribute to the development of their own attorneys, but will help to shape the future of the practice of law.
- They will walk if they feel their work doesn’t align with their values and give them a sense of purpose.
In her book, Rikleen cites a 2012 study from Rutgers University which reported that “60 percent [of Millennials] were willing to sacrifice 15% of their salary to work for an organization whose values they share. To have a job that endeavors to make a social or environmental difference in the world, 45% of the student respondents said they would give up 15% of their income.”
Think about what those numbers mean for your law firm. You have the opportunity to develop a law firm culture that can attract and retain the best talent AND make a positive difference in the world beyond the clients you serve.
Thank you, Millennials.