Bridging the Generation Gap in Your Firm
Law schools are turning out new lawyers each year who are entering the workforce full of ideas and ready to take on the legal problems of the world. However, they’re often entering firms where Boomers and Gen Xers are married to their long-standing traditions and not as open to new ideas.
Great frustrations can arise from the eager Millennial who feels as if their law degree and successful bar exam completion are proof enough that they’re ready to take on the next client that walks through the door. However, their Gen X and Boomer counterparts would rather see them prove themselves by putting in a little more time and work.
When generations collide it can greatly affect the morale and productivity of a firm. What will become of the firms if there is a constant clash of generations?
Here are some ways to bridge the generational gaps at your firm:
1.) Create a firm culture that promotes mentorship. Transitioning from the classroom to the courtroom can be a frightening experience for a new attorney. The Millennial mindset is such that they feel the need to hit the ground running in an effort to prove they belong. Consider pairing your senior attorneys with new lawyers as mentors. The Millennial will no longer feel like she has something to prove, she’ll feel included and have a support system within the office. Developing a mentor-mentee relationship will help both parties get to know and understand one another while improving the overall morale of the firm.
2.) Develop committees. Developing employee committees with multi-generational representatives will allow everyone to have a voice. The concerns of the Millennial lawyers may not be the concerns of the Boomer lawyers. Developing a committee will provide a forum for open discussion.
3.) Highlight strengths. Each generation brings a unique set of skills, experience and character traits that makes them an asset to the firm. It’s important to highlight the strengths that each generation brings to the table. It’s those strengths that make the firm successful.
- Baby Boomers have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the legal field. Their names are often on the front door of the law office. Boomers like the idea of tradition and tend to be reluctant when it comes to change. However, they value loyalty, hard work, and respect. They have developed key relationships over the course of their career that continue to benefit the firm.
- Gen Xers are extremely independent and resourceful. Gen Xers are excellent researchers and possess a wealth of knowledge on a myriad of topics. The Gen Xer is very analytical and is key in developing procedures and processes that will help the firm be more efficient.
- Millennials are extremely tech-savvy and will be key in helping bring in a new wave of clients. While not as experienced as their colleagues, the Millennial is a master networker and will be key in building and maintaining new relationships, both in-person and online. The Millennial is eager to learn and will often take on additional tasks as professional development opportunities. Millennials will be key in helping move firms forward and helping them navigate the 21st century.
4.) Communication is key. Communication is often a huge barrier between generations. Not so much that they don’t communicate, they just communicate differently. The tech-savvy Millennial may find it easier to send a quick email to provide a case update, where the Boomer would prefer to sit down face-to-face. While the Boomer and Gen Xer may come to meetings with pen and pad in hand, the Millennial will likely tap away at her smartphone or tablet. It’s important that generations understand that everyone communicates differently and reach a compromise so that everyone is able to effectively communicate.
5.) Compromise. In order for any relationship to be successful, there has to be some compromise. All parties involved need to be open to hear the suggestions and concerns of others. The best interest of the firm and the clients should always be top priority and motivation for generational differences to be put aside. Consider having items that require face- to – face meetings and others where a quick email update will suffice. There will have to be a mutual agreement about what works best. A little bending is much better than breaking.
The key to combating the generational gap in your firm lies in changing your perspective. The mix of generations within your firm is not a problem, but a plus. Each generation brings their unique experiences and skillsets to the table. The experience of the Boomer, paired with the efficiency of the Gen Xer and the enterprising spirit of the Millennial are the makings of multi-faceted, forward-thinking, devoted law firm ready to serve today’s client.
Check out these titles from our lending library:
- Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace by Ron Zemke, Claire Raines and Bob Filipczak
- The Millennial Lawyer by Ursala Furi-Perry
- You Raised Us – Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Team Building String Workplace Teams by Lauren Stiller Rikleen
- When Generations Collide by Lynne C Lancaster, David Stillman