One in a Million? The Millennial takeover
If you’ve ever looked for “Millennials are…” in a search engine, you’ll know a few things; Millennials are “screwed”, “anxious” and are “killing industries” in their droves. Reliably castigated as: emotional and unreliable, millennials are the generation everybody loves to hate. While it’s easy to write off a whole generation as a problem to be solved, Millennials are redefining the legal industry; pressing for technological and culture change, Millennials are challenging law firms to reassess their business practices to keep pace with the changing world around them.
Millennials now form the backbone of staff and client bases and making up 35% of our current workforce. Although Millennials aren’t yet the majority, it’s only a matter of time before the tables turn- and by 2020 they will make up 50% of the workforce. As law firms continue to acquire talented young people, established professionals should embrace the influence of Millennials to avoid playing a tug of war with their lawyers and risk being left behind…
As this generation grows older and progresses in their careers, increasingly Millennials are asserting power over management decisions, and taking initiative on large projects to reform the practices of their organisation. Unlike their baby-boomer colleagues, Millennials aren’t as wedded to industry traditions, and place little value in practices that take place because they always have. Outmoded processes and anachronistic hierarchies receiving the chop early in legal start-ups, favouring lateral knowledge sharing solutions and efficiency saving tech. The partnership model is one landmark example: “millennials want what they want and they want it now. The patience factor is not one of their fortes — they're not going to stand around for 12 years,” says a co-founder of Legal A-Team. As a result, law firms will have to significantly adapt their culture to retain millennial talent without losing the most able lawyers to agile start-ups. With such a substantial practice as the partnership model under scrutiny, it’s plain than Millennials are pushing law firms to think more creatively, enlivening and steering high-level discussions about how law firms stay relevant in the greater economy.
Talent acquisition is where Millennials prove most vital to law firms, and are providing guidance and practical solutions that will empower law firms in their battle for top talent. With the rising tech sector and legal industry disrupters it’s becoming increasingly challenging for traditional law firms to assert uniqueness and a competitive edge. Harnessing the value set of millennials is a vital component when it comes to attracting talent as they are the professionals most likely to align with new graduates. More than any other generation, Millennials value the idea of company culture. In a survey conducted by Fidelity it was found that Millennials are willing to give up (up to) £7,600 in salary every year for a job that gave them a better environment and culture. While typical high achievers have traditionally chased salary, Millennials are looking for companies that align with their values, and build a good community culture. Social Responsibility is high on the list of key values, and Millennials take a keen interest in issues concerning the environment and climate change. Understanding the key cultural motivators behind this generation is pivotal, and the insight of your junior colleagues will provide vital insight into the future of the law firm.
In lieu of traditional indicators of success, Millennials have been more creative—thinking differently about what it means to be professionally successful; from developing work-based communities, sports programmes, in-house baristas bars and flexible work schedules—millennials have refreshed the cultural identity of the legal industry and have diminished the idea that law firms are devoid of personality. While Millennials are capable professionals, their real value lies in their ability to drive the profession forward, and away from notions that law firms are “pale and stale.” As the Law Journal Newsletter reports “A number of firms have moved, remodelled or completely overhauled their physical workplaces with millennials in mind, favouring common areas, for example, over large corner offices.” There is little doubt that the future of the law firm is changing under the influence of millennial leadership, and that traditional indicators of prestige could continue to wane and be replaced by business practices that reflect the changing value culture of young professionals.
Millennials, a generation born between the early 1980’s and late 1990’s- have witnessed the world shift on its axis. From home ownership, job security, the rise of consumerism technology, the lives of those born after 1980 look remarkably different to that of their parents. The rise of consumerism is particularly significant. Consumerism has profoundly altered the dynamic of law firms; lawyers are becoming increasingly mindful that client power is coming to dominate the workplace and their practices, from billing to efficient working, the client is now at the heart of the law form. As a result, law firms and their lawyers should think more creatively about their business practices- this is where Millennials excel. Innately comfortable with technology, social media and sharing posts online, Millennials prefer to work collaboratively than as a silo. For these qualities, it’s essential to open up a dialogue with millennials to ensure that clients remain happy and your work force remain stimulated.
Their influence shouldn’t be underestimated...
The real power of Millennials derives from their ability to understand the talent market—a key battleground for law firms. Law firms thrive on the quality of their talent. To attract the best and brightest, it’s essential that lawyers listen to their Millennial colleagues. However, as the Financial Times continues to report, firms are struggling to source and retain talent; with a diminishing number of talented young people going to law school and competition between law firms is on the rise, each of whom are desperate attract talented trainees to their firm, it is increasingly difficult to win the battle for talent. As a result, firms need to think about how to stay relevant to young lawyers; requiring a more thoughtful approach towards adapting the workplaces of law firms to be engaging to millennials. With new graduates taking a broader review of their careers- moving between industries over the course of their careers- law firms have to fight harder to retain talent than ever before. Millennials are key to helping law firms communicate their vision of the future and enable firms to modernise in conjunction with the demands of new talent, and drive a competitive edge. With many law firms looking for means of modernisation, bringing millennials into key strategic decisions will enable decision makers to find resolutions to tough decisions that work for everyone in the long term. The Associates Committee is a fantastic resource to enable decision makers to engage with young associates. Discussing how participation and discussion facilitates greater understanding and can improve your law firms’ practices.
Losing out on millennial talent could mean losing out on a competitive edge, as millennial working begins to become the industry standard. While some law firms remain skeptical about the value set of Millennials, there’s little doubt that they are accumulating power and are prime to assert a great deal of change over the legal landscape.