Millennials — generally defined as people born between 1981 and 1996 — make up the largest segment of today’s workforce, which includes the legal industry. With Baby Boomers increasingly leaving their practices and the overall job market changing in light of the pandemic, law firms must focus on recruiting and retaining younger attorneys to ensure long-term viability.
The first step is understanding Millennials’ preferences, priorities and perceptions. A survey of more than 1,200 Millennial attorneys conducted by the Above the Law blog and the legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa provides some insight.
Like many of their nonattorney peers, Millennial attorneys cite work-life balance as their top priority. Almost 75% would trade part of their compensation for more time off, a flexible work schedule or reduced billable hours. These results align with the sentiments of Millennials in general. For example, a Marketplace-Edison Research poll found that workers ages 18 to 34 are more likely to rank flexible schedule and remote work opportunities as important in a job than their colleagues ages 35 and older. Given the pandemic’s shift to working remotely, how law firm leaders respond to remote work arrangements in the future will be a key issue for many.
Related Read: Law Firm Planning in the Midst of a Pandemic
Law firms, therefore, would be wise to tailor their employee benefits accordingly. This may require a significant overhaul of traditional packages or, for firms with a substantial number of Gen X and Boomers, multiple packages to choose from — something for everyone.
More than 75% of respondents indicated that they were either open to new job opportunities or actively seeking them. Unhappiness with compensation (29%) and management/firm culture (22%) were the top reasons for looking for new opportunities.
In the view of these attorneys, law firm culture clearly needs some work. Half of the respondents agreed that the firm business model is fundamentally broken, and two-thirds agree that partnership is less desirable than it was a decade ago.
Gender politics is another area of concern: 45% of women strongly agree that law firm culture is sexist (vs. 14% of men), and 56% strongly agree there is a gender pay gap (vs. 18% of men).
Different perceptions about professional development could also pose problems. Almost 75% of partners agree that the partners at their firm genuinely care about associate development. However, only half of the associates surveyed feel that way.
The discrepancy may be due to the fact that Millennials crave development opportunities and greater feedback more than their older co-workers. Law firms should provide younger attorneys with frequent and specific feedback through evaluations, peer review, mentorship or one-on-one meetings. They also may need to provide special assignments or challenges earlier on than in the past.
The Future is Now
It is Millennial attorneys who will carry law firms into the future. Keeping them engaged and committed now should rank as a top priority.
Related Read: How Law Firms Can Move Forward Profitably
For more information, contact Kalman Shiner at 312.670.7444. Visit ORBA.com to learn more about our Law Firm Group.
I have seen similar surveys over the last few years. Millennials want work-life balance, meaning fewer hours, but their top reason for seeking a new job is dissatisfaction with compensation. Some might see an inherent conflict there.
I think the Walter Payton training story provides guidance. He is reputed to have trained harder in the off season than anyone, constantly running up hills. I am sure he would have preferred a better work-life balance, but maybe the real question is what you mean by work-life balance. I think the Millennials mean less work and more life, but I suspect Walter weighed things differently. If a real personal effort could produce a big reward at work, some people might say the reward on one end of the balance beam outweighed more “life” on the other end.
Another answer might be to pick a career where what you do does not seem like work .
We agree! Thank you for your insight.