Summary: Law firms are no different than any other organization when it comes to having a hard time relating to millennials but needing to find a way to make it work.
Millennials don’t always get a very good rap. They are described as selfish, entitled, and sell-outs, all of which are not necessarily the top traits law firms value. Law firms need committed attorneys who are willing to work hard for years until they can earn a top position. With millennials as the primary demographic entering into the workforce today, law firms have to find a way of making things work for all employees. Millennials currently make up only 25 percent of practicing lawyers, but they are slowly becoming the future business leaders and managers of law firms. Experts estimate 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials in the next ten years or so. With a large portion of the workforce comprised of Millennials in just a few years, law firms must start acting now to transform their firms into millennial friendly work environments.
The one big thing law firms and millennials value is success. So how can law firms work with millennials toward a shared goal? As Nixon Peabody CEO Andrew Glincher said, “We need to learn to adapt so we can make the most of this talent. Any good leader needs to understand and figure out how to be relevant and resonate with their workforce.”
There are 6 steps law firms can take to get the most out of their millennial attorneys while keeping them satisfied.
- Give trust, creative freedom, and autonomy
Millennials want to work someplace where they are trusted by their supervisors. They need the flexibility to make decisions and forge their own path to success. They are much more interested in figuring out things on their own with minimal guidance. Because of the work environment that millennials want, they tend to change jobs more often, looking for one that does not make them feel suffocated.
Millennials are mostly averse to micromanaging. It makes them feel undervalued and useless. While many may think of millennials as lazy, they actually want to learn things the hard way, and on their own. Law firms need to allow millennials to fail a few times within parameters that protect the law firm. Along with this comes the desire for flexibility in schedules. Although law firms are generally stricter in the hours they allow—since attorneys spend most of their waking hours at the office—allowing millennials the freedom to decide their own break times can help them feel that they have some control.
Extend this freedom to their practice. If an associate has a passion for beer, let them target their practice towards advising microbreweries. Encourage them to use their passion to build a book of businesses that supports the firm but keeps them involved in their passion.
- Give frequent feedback
Millennials are driven by a power to improve. They will actively search for feedback. While feedback should always be constructive, it does not need to be sugar coated. This should be an easy way for law firms to match the needs of their millennial attorneys. Evaluate and hold your attorneys accountable for their ideas and development. They also need to learn how to provide feedback as well so that as they grow within the firm to be supervisors, they will soon be able to help others grow.
Finding a way to assure your millennials that they are valued and trusted, while still developing plans for improvement and advancement, will keep your millennial attorneys satisfied. Empower and respect millennials by giving them guidance and support if you wish to keep retention levels high. Millennials don’t value traditional benchmarks of success, as other generations might, like titles and status. Law firms may be slightly different in that attorneys still work towards obtaining certain titles like partner.
- Keep things authentic
No one particularly enjoys inauthentic behaviors and actions. Millennials are no exception to this attitude. Keep your law firm a place where attorneys respect each other and where managers are relatable and accessible. Encourage everyone to be true to themselves and not try to impress others by referencing things they don’t know. It is very clear, especially to Millennials when people try too hard to impress them.
- Focus on relationships
Create ways for millennials and their coworkers to interact and develop stronger relationships. A Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) survey found that millennials are “innately collaborative and accustomed to learning in teams and by doing.” This could mean changing the physical and social ways for them to interact by moving to open offices instead of cubicles, and allowing for more one-on-one team building events. These changes will help millennials build the interpersonal relationships they truly value.
- Add in the fun
Millennials like to have some fun with their work. Consider adding ping pong tables, nap rooms, and other fun aspects included at such top tech companies like Google and Facebook. Law firms are not able to go as far as some of these top tech companies to have bean bag work spaces but they can still take steps to make their firm more fun. They can find ways of making work fun by hosting events, retreats, and meals – food is a great way of making employees happy and fed with some social interaction mixed in. Consider catering a breakfast, lunch or dinner each week to show your appreciation to your attorneys and legal staff. These extra touches will set your firm apart from others, keeping your overall retention rates higher.
- Embrace technology
Millennials are at home with technology. Everything they know how to do involves technology. Building a workplace that utilizes technology will make them feel comfortable and satisfied that they are not wasting their time and effort. Millennials know how to use technology to increase their efficiency. Not being able to use the technology that can improve their job could decrease their motivation to work hard.
See the following articles for more information:
- Here’s What You Should Do to Strengthen Your Associate Loyalty
- How to Hire the Best for Your Law Firm in 6 Steps
- Understanding Generation Y – The Key to Leading a Workforce of the Future