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The Increasing Impact of Millennials in and on Law Firms

 

by Jeffrey S. Weil, Executive Vice President at Colliers International on March 16, 2018

There are approximately 80 million millennials, those born between 1980 and 1999. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they comprise almost a quarter of all attorneys and by 2030 they will make up 75 percent of the nation’s workers.1

Millennials grew up on the Internet, they get their answers at a click of a button, they are stimulated by instant feedback, they are connected 24/7 and their work and personal life is totally intermingled. Checking e-mails while on vacation, and ordering goods on Amazon while at work is the norm for them. Millennials may have comparatively minimal use of legal secretaries and assistants, often doing their own scheduling and research.

Does the traditional way and culture of a law firm try to impose these on the millennials, or instead do they listen to where they are coming from and adapt or compromise to their reality? 1

Capitalizing on the tech-savvy millennials – there are computer programs which can now process basic parts of what junior associates formerly did, saving the firm time and money. Law robots of the future?

What do millennial lawyers want? – They want their employer to train and mentor them. Invite them to meetings and bring them to court appearances.

Have different career paths available for them. “Deloitte calls this option-based system career “lattice” rather than the “ladder”. Some millennials may not want to put in the necessary hours to make a partner. Others may value job flexibility and work-life balance more than strictly income. 2

Kristen Thall Peters, Managing Partner of Cooper, White & Cooper LLP in Walnut Creek, California, had these comments: she acknowledges the need to woo millennials who, unlike previous generations, may not want to put in 2,000 – 2,500 billable hours, but instead have a balanced work and personal life. The traditional attorney business model of getting in early, working hard and long hours has been replaced by one that still gets the job done, but with less personal sacrifice. Millennials are able to read and edit contracts on-screen whereas some Baby Boomers still print out their materials for easier editing. The paralegals increasingly have to be cutting-edge with technology to be able to accommodate the millennial high-tech mentality. Video conferencing has become much more commonplace and with high-speed Internet access, the millennials as well as the other generations utilize this tool for video conferencing with other firm offices, cooperating attorneys as well as opposing counsel. An additional interesting side benefit is that participants have a more difficult time checking e-mail or looking at their digital devices during a video conference as everyone can see what they are doing. Millennials as well as older attorneys utilize telecommuting and remote officing, depending on what they are working on. Millennials are more environmentally conscious and want to have a Green workplace. They also want to give back to their community, not just through pro-bono work, but volunteering, being involved in local boards and actively participating in their community.

Douglas Straus, Managing Partner of Archer Norris, commented, “There is a whole array of new technology that all lawyers, perhaps led by millennials, will need to take advantage of in order to remain competitive.  Millennial lawyers, and even veterans like me, expect to be able to do our work seamlessly 24/7 on the road, from home and anywhere else we find ourselves. Attorneys will be able to increasingly telecommute as this becomes more accepted by clients and continues to prove effective in getting the job done. The modern law office will largely eliminate traditional large partner offices in favor of a more collaborative office environment, with ample conference space, some modest-sized private offices and hotel offices for most lawyers.  Archer Norris is already planning its move to new offices in 2020 and the only office space question for us is whether we will have any private offices or move to a 100% “hotel office” environment.  Not only does the hotel office concept promote equity and communication amongst lawyers, it will also push us over the paperless office goal line.”

“According to the 2016 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey, 44 percent of millennials plan to change jobs within the next two years. Since the survey included legal services as one of its industries, that means lawyers, too.” Give them choices within your firm, let them pick pro-bono work, and have variety without having to change firms. 2

Consider allowing some associates to occasionally work from home when appropriate, and be able to take time off in the middle of the day if they return and work in the evening. Job flexibility is important to millennials.

One article emphasized that millennials want time and attention from the partners, which can sometimes be challenging in the endeavor to keep billable client hours up. They also may want a seat at the table in being part of the firm’s decision-making process. They may want to be included in issues such as where the office should be located, how it is laid out, and what new technology should be employed by the firm. 4

“Millennials prefer to be coached and mentored instead of “bossed” or just told what to do. They actually prefer more interaction and feedback than the typical baby boomer.” 4

Millennials want to understand the work product, the process, and the “why” of the case.

Rather than just financial rewards, millennials are motivated by being engaged, giving back, being included in social activities, donating to charity, and volunteering. 5 Chad Thomas, Managing Partner of Berding & Weil LLP based in Walnut Creek, California, stated, “Millennials are looking for a sense of purpose in their careers and to connect to their coworkers and clients.  They seek a flatter organization that emphasizes the “team” rather than top down management. They seem to thrive in dynamic and challenging work places and feel empowered to challenge established ideas and concepts.”

Millennials grew up on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media and they love to collaborate. They want to be a part of the process, not just passive participants.

The physical space of the law firm might need modifications to appeal to these millennials.” American Lawyer: A number of firms have moved, remodeled or completely overhauled their physical workplaces with millennials in mind, favoring common areas, for example, over large corner offices”.

“What’s becoming more apparent to me is that law firms need millennial lawyers a lot more than millennials need the law firms,” Jordan Furlong, a legal industry analyst at Law 21 says. “They might not think they do, but every day we get closer to an entire generation of rainmakers and relationship partners and corner-office heavyweights shifting into retirement.” 7

Resist or adapt, but regardless, millennials are here to stay and will be an increasing force within law firms and their clients in the foreseeable future.

Jeffrey S. Weil, MCR.h, CCIM, SIOR, is an Executive Vice President with Colliers International. Mr. Weil has been selling and leasing East Bay Commercial real estate for more than 40 years. He specializes in the exclusive representation of law firms in their lease renewals and relocations. Mr. Weil can be reached by phone at (925) 279-5590 or by e-mail at jeff.weil@colliers.com.

 

References:

1          Schmidt, C. (2016, July 28). Managing the Millennial lawyer. Retrieved from

Managing the Millennial Lawyer

 

2          Pollak, L. (2016, May 17). Making the case: How to retain millennials in law.

Retrieved from

Making the Case: How to Retain Millennials in Law

3          Stevenson, D., Hedley, A. (2016, July 8). Building law firms for millennials—a

                        challenge or an opportunity? Retrieved from

http://blogs.lexisnexis.co.uk/futureoflaw/2016/07/building-law-firms-for- millennials-a-challenge-or-an-opportunity/

4          Remley, S. (2016, July 11). Retaining Millennials at Law Firms Requires Change

Retrieved from

http://www.jaffepr.com/blog/retaining-millennials-law-firms-requires-change

5          Aderant. (n.d.). Attracting Millennials: Seven Tips for Large Law Firms Leaders

Retrieved from http://www.aderant.com/think-tank/millennials-large-law/

6          McLellan, L. (2017, December) Can Millennials Save Your Law Firm?

Retrieved from http://www.lawjournalnewsletters.com/sites/lawjournalnewsletters/2017/12/01/can-millennials-save-your-law-firm/?slreturn=20180214133645

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