How to keep millennials in your law firm

Sarah Goulbourne
Lawyers Walk Out Over Legal Aid Cuts
Source: Getty

Has there ever been a more discussed, documented, and often pilloried generation than millennials?

More has been written about this unique cohort, and the way in which their particular values and needs are reshaping the workplace.

We know that they seek a sense of purpose over a big pay check, they want to feel that their work is delivering real impact, and that they need to receive recognition for their efforts.

Everyone’s ideas matter

Most importantly, we know about their fierce disdain for workplaces where only those at the very top have a voice on important issues and make all the decisions.

They value open, flatter structures where they are able to pitch in with their opinions and where the best ideas matter – no matter who they come from.

Millennials prize autonomy: the space to think for themselves and act on their own solutions.

Forget hierarchies

In legal services, hierarchies continue to prevail. Junior lawyers start at the bottom, and work their way to the top by putting in long hours and billing huge fees. Strategic decisions are the sole preserve of those at the very top.

But this model doesn’t work for the younger generations, who prize collaboration and openness, and have grown up in a world in which information has become increasingly democratised – meaning anyone has access to the resources that lead to a well-informed idea.

Flexible working

Millennial lawyers understand that you don’t need to be tied to a desk to do a job well – they don’t see the value of “showing face” at the office when the work is being done to a high standard.

In our hyper-connected, fluid world, they want to be able to work flexibly and efficiently. They expect to use technology to deliver results as quickly as possible, regardless of what has traditionally been considered.

For millennial lawyers, working around the clock to be rewarded with a high salary and status doesn’t hold the appeal it once did for generations before them.

Face the future

The job for life is no longer: millennial lawyers, along with their peers in other industries, are likely to hold down several roles across their lifetime, meaning that the law firms who employ them cannot expect their new hires to remain loyal forever.

Future-facing law firms are already taking note. Some, like gunnercooke, allow experienced lawyers to join a model based on giving them freedom and flexibility.

This enables them to operate from the best place to serve the client, be it their clients’ offices, their firm’s office, or another location, in addition to working in the best way for them personally.

They deploy technology to improve efficiency and collaboration, such as introducing cloud-based systems. They respect boundaries between employees’ – professional and personal.

Law is a team sport

I passionately believe that the happiest lawyers are supportive team players operating collaboratively.

They are cool-headed in a crisis and focused on the solution, as opposed to the problem. They can ask more of colleagues because their relationships are stronger, the atmosphere they establish is more positive, and the people around them are happier too.

Embracing millennials’ passion for collaboration, autonomy and efficiency will benefit the law firms they work for, and will ultimately deliver better value to clients.

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