Every generation is different than the one that preceded it. While countless words have been written in an attempt to get inside the Millennial mind and debate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Millennial generation compared to those that came before, the fact of the matter is that Millennials now make up a significant portion of the current workforce, including the junior ranks at law firms. Gen Z will soon follow, moving the industry even further into the future.
Just as the legal industry has had to adapt to rapid changes in technology in recent years, law firm management must learn to adapt its practices and culture to meet the needs of Millennials and make efforts to bridge generational gaps if they want to retain associates. Recent studies show that attorney turnover, particularly among junior attorneys, has reached new heights.
In order to attract the best and brightest young attorneys, firms need to adjust the status quo and realize that the culture that has long been recognized as business-as-usual no longer exists.
Managing Millennial Lawyers
Unlike previous generations, Millennials have shown themselves to be more interested in quality of life issues than they are in traditional dollars-and-cents compensation (though salaries will of course always still matter).
But what exactly do Millennials want? All stereotypes aside, there are some easy steps for firms to follow if they want to keep their younger employees happy.
Millennials grew up with the internet, which means they’re used to receiving instant responses and feedback. It’s no surprise, then, that they want the same thing in a professional setting. Feedback and constructive criticism should be delivered for assignments and projects in as close to real-time as possible, rather than waiting for scheduled annual or bi-annual performance reviews. Open and clear communication will result in greater job satisfaction for Millennial lawyers and better work product for the firm.
Investment in Work
For many Millennials, simply having a job isn’t enough – they want jobs that they feel have meaning or purpose. That can sometimes seem at odds with the routine tasks that are typically assigned to junior associates, like document review or redlining contracts. The best way to solve this potential conflict is to keep your Millennial lawyers in the loop on the case as a whole and make sure they always understand how the work they’re doing fits into the bigger picture. Training is another great way to help Millennials feel that they’re truly part of a team where they can grow and succeed. Giving them reasons to feel invested in the work will vastly improve their job satisfaction.
Law as a field has notoriously been rigid, and today’s young workforce is anything but. Things that used to be seen luxuries for busy lawyers on the go are now expected to be the norm – working from home, remote work via Wi-Fi, flexible schedules to work around appointments. Millennials will get the job done (see the previous point on being invested in their work), but they want to do it on their own terms as much as possible. The days of strict office hours and putting in face time are quickly coming to an end.
The graduating law school classes of the past decade bear little resemblance to past law school classes. Today’s young lawyers come from a vast array of diverse backgrounds and are generally well attuned to social issues. Law can no longer afford to perpetuate the “old boys’ club” stereotype. Millennials have grown up in a diverse world and they want to see that diversity reflected in their employers.
While not all generalizations about Millennials are true, the notion that they’re all tech-savvy is probably as close as it comes. It will be even more true for Gen Z attorneys. Today’s junior lawyers grew up with technology in almost every aspect of their lives. They appreciate the conveniences it offers, and they can’t understand why you wouldn’t use it as much as possible to make your work easier.
Firms need to be open to embracing new technologies and new methods of communication, like texts and instant messaging rather than phone calls and face-to-face meetings. The more tools you give your junior attorneys, the more efficiently they’ll do their work and the better their work product will be. Technology also goes a long way toward creating the kinds of flexible working arrangements that Millennials want.
Veritext has always been on the cutting-edge of change in the legal industry. As a global leader in litigation and deposition solutions, we’re familiar with today’s leading technologies and trends and offer education to lawyers of any age, including CLE webinars, to help them stay up to date with the changing landscape of the legal industry. Contact us today to learn more.