Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Millennial Lawyers Are Coming to Save the Day

save the daySeventy percent of law firm partners are Baby Boomers on the cusp of retirement, and in the coming years many will be replaced by Millennials.

That could be a good thing, says Seattle Law Professor Susan McClellan, who likens Millennials to the Greatest Generation in can-do attitude.

“I expect this new generation of workers to take long strides in solving major problems that face our country and culture today, she says.

Similarly, Ron Alsop – author of Trophy Kids Grow Up – says the workforce will benefit from the strength of Millennials in teamwork, technology skills, social networking and multitasking.

These are two of the insights from “The Millennial Lawyer: Making the Most of Generational Differences in the Firm,” by Ursula Furi-Perry.

The book is a how-to manual for firms wanting to take advantage of the tsunami of law talent headed their way. It is also a guide for law students and recent graduates looking to launch their careers.

It is available here and through the American Bar Association.

Tech Skills, Collaborative Attitude and Public Service

Furi-Perry, who is herself a Millennial lawyer, points out that just as no two Boomer or Gen X lawyers are alike, the same is true with Millennials. But she says common experiences have helped shape the personalities of lawyers born between the late 1970s and early 2000s.

Among the positive characteristics: an entrepreneurial spirit, collaborative attitude, technology know-how, appreciation of individualism and diversity in the workplace and an interest in public service and volunteerism

Here are some of her other observations:

  • The stereotype of the Lazy Millennial. “Some have portrayed Millennials as a generation of whiners who lack work ethic, need constant praise and hand-holding, tend to be less loyal to their employers than members of previous generations, have an incredible sense of entitlement, and want to be on the fast track to the top without paying their dues,” she says here. “Supervising and managing partners need to stop buying into the stereotype of the lazy Millennial. Instead, they should be tapping into their unique skill set, putting their talents to use for maximum efficiency at the firm.”
  • The advantages of hiring a Millennial. “Millennials enjoy working in groups, while they are also used to working independently and juggling many tasks. They often have an ‘I can do anything I set my mind to’ attitude (conveyed and taught to them, most often, by their Boomer helicopter parents), which a savvy manager can harvest and use for the good of the firm. They are innovative and enthusiastic.”
  • How to attract and keep Millennials at your firm. “Start with open engagement and interactive inquiry. Millennials want clear goals, clear road maps and employers who will allow them to engage and inquire, and will in turn clarify and listen with an open mind. Also, recognize that what you (or other lawyers from previous generations) may have found to be enticing to stay at a firm — namely, raises and promotions through the traditional career ladder to partnership — are not necessarily what the Millennial lawyer finds enticing. Focus less on prestige and tradition and more on the future of the firm. Millennials want to feel that they are contributing to the greater good of their employers’ business. Explain to your Millennial associates how they fit into the big picture.”
  • The importance of mentoring. “Millennials want structure. They want clear expectations, instructions, guideposts and evaluations. Whereas the older attorneys at the firm may have gotten little guidance and were expected to sink or swim, the newest generation of lawyers has a real problem with that. Mentoring continues to evolve, and formal and informal programs that have worked in the past may not work for this newest generation. This means that some of the programs you may already have in place at your firm — on which you may be spending considerable resources — may not be effective or efficient. Mentoring programs should stress the importance of clearly articulated expectations for the mentor, the mentee and the mentoring relationship, along with continued communication.”
  • How Millennials can help bridge the technological gap. “Millennials must understand that many employers might not be as up to date on technology as the Millennial associate might expect, but that employers will listen to realistic, good ideas about advancing the firm. There are examples of Millennial associates in my book who have proactively asked their employers to allow them to use their tech-savvy to their firms’ advantage — for example, by revamping the firm’s website, helping the firm reduce its reliance on paper or establishing the firm’s social media presence. Millennials must recognize that technology cannot replace all face-to-face communication. Conversely, supervising partners should recognize the value of technology in communicating with their associates.”
  • How Millennials can weather a bad economy. “I usually advise students to work on a realistic budget as soon as they begin working, track their spending closely and live within their means. They should become familiar with any programs designed to help with student loan debt, including deferment programs, loan repayment assistance programs, income-based loan repayment programs and loan forgiveness programs. Most important, in tough times, be proactive about finding a job and flexible in considering potential employers — for example, develop strategic relationships (network!) with people who might align you with your next position, and stay up to date on the legal landscape and potential employment opportunities.”


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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