Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Millennial Lawyers Would Swap Pay for Free Time

Millennial lawyers say the traditional law practice model is broken beyond repair – but even so, many say making partner at their present firm is their number one goal.

And three-quarters of them would happily take less pay in exchange for more time off.

Those are some of the findings from a survey of younger lawyers working in US firms that was conducted by Major, Lindsey & Africa and the website Above The Law.

“There’s no question that this generation operates differently than their predecessors, and the law firms that are best situated for future growth are the ones that are open to changing the status quo,” said a Managing Director of Major, Lindsey in this press release.

Another takeaway: close to half of millennials believe the current generation of law firm leadership has “outstayed its effectiveness,” while 61.6 percent think their generation is transforming law firm policies and culture for the better.

Read the survey here. Read the press release from Major, Lindsey & Africa here.

Quality of Life is Key

Millennials at large law firms have seen big pay increases in recent years, but that doesn’t mean all of them are happy. Forty-seven percent say their workloads have risen as well, as has the stress of rising billable hour expectations.

Twenty-six percent said they would take less money in exchange for more flexibility in their work schedule. Twenty-three percent would do so for a commensurate reduction in billable hours.

Other significant findings:

  • Informal mentorships are more meaningful than formal ones. Nearly 61 percent of respondents said that an informal mentor has a significant or crucial role in their career, compared to nearly 29 percent for a formal mentor. Women tended to value informal mentorships more than men.
  • Firms should consider how to increase loyalty. While nearly 70 percent of millennials self-described as loyal, over 75 percent were either open to new job opportunities or actively seeking them. However, respondents who described themselves as “highly loyal” were much less likely to be seeking new job opportunities and also placed a high value on firm transparency regarding career paths.
  • Millennials are optimistic about the future. 62 percent agreed that millennials are transforming law firm policies and culture for the better; close to 70 percent were confident that they will achieve their 10-year career goal.
  • Work-life balance remains the top priority. Both men and women view work-life balance as the most important factor in evaluating potential employers. 75 percent would trade a portion of their compensation for either more time off, a flexible work schedule, or a cut in billable hours.

Gender Gap

“The difference between the perspectives of men and women are most visibly pronounced on issues such as sexism in the workplace and the gender pay gap,” according to the press release from Major, Lindsey & Africa.

Some numbers:

  • 45 percent of women strongly agreed that law firm culture is sexist, compared to just 14 percent of men.
  • 56 percent of women strongly agreed there is a gender pay gap, a view shared by only 18 percent of men.
  • 63 percent of women strongly agreed that a diverse and inclusive workforce should be a priority, compared to 37 percent of men.
  • Women across the board were more critical of law firm culture, compensation structure, and business model.


“It’s clear that men and women have different priorities, which suggests that there may be internal friction and growing pains as firms continue to evolve,” according to the press release. “Balancing their unique interests and concerns will need to be top of mind for law firm management as the field continues to grow more diverse.”

Yet despite all this, many respondents said their top priority for the next 10 years was making partner, either at the firm they are presently at (27.7 percent) or at a different firm (12.3 percent).

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.

Read More by Jay >

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