To the Legal Old Guard: Let the Youngsters Do Their Stuff!

We’ve all heard the familiar lament: Millennials are lazy. But many companies are learning that’s simply not the case. Millennials are becoming a hot commodity in many organizations because they easily adapt to change, adopt new technologies rapidly, force positive shifts in worn-out cultures, and seek new experiences with gusto.

Doesn’t that sound like an employee you’d want at your law firm?

And yet, many law firms are holding onto their old, low-tech, work-them-until-they-bleed, “when-I-was-your-age” culture and they are driving Millennials away. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! With law school enrollments trending downward or remaining flat, law firms are competing harder than ever for recent law school graduates and if you’re offering them an old-school experience, you might as well hand them over to your competitors.

Why Are Millennials Good for the Legal Industry?

Born between 1980 and the early 1990s, Millennials (aka: Generation Y and Echo Boomers) are the most diverse generation in U.S. history and the largest since the Baby Boomers. Yes, they come from an age when “everybody gets a trophy” and they expect rewards for hard work. They also want a work-life balance so that they have time to play and parent. Many of these concepts are anathema to the legal industry, which has traditionally rewarded people who give up their lives for the firm.

But I’m telling you, it is time to make a culture shift, and not just because you need bodies to do your work. Millennials will actually help your firm to improve the work that it does. How? Read on!

Millennials Are Masters of Change

If there’s anything that’s been certain in the lives of Millennials, it’s uncertainty. They have witnessed some of the most dramatic cultural, political and technological changes in our country’s history.

As Jeff Bennion wrote in

“Millennials understand what it’s like to have your backs to the ropes, and they know how to think creatively and solve problems. Have you been in court and needed a legal answer and used the Westlaw app or the Fastcase app? Have you ever picked a jury with the iJuror app on an iPad? The issue is not necessarily that all millennials are more familiar with all of the apps, it’s that millennials are more likely to be looking to constantly evolve and change methods and techniques every so often because they are a generation of people who have witnessed the rise and fall of technology enough to know that you should change and adapt. Where older lawyers might stick with WordPerfect and BlackBerries because that’s just what they are used to, Millennials would be more likely to reevaluate things and try new technologies and new ways of doing things because they’ve seen BlackBerries rise and fall, iPhones go from dominating the smartphone market to having around a 20% market share, iPads rise and fall. Millennials use something, and then wait for something better to come along and then use that.”

Millennials Understand Today’s Communications Technologies

If you have a phone book or a Rolodex, you need to listen to a Millennial. Unless you haven’t secured a new client in the last decade, your clients expect you to communicate with them in some pretty new-fangled ways. (i.e. How are you sharing briefs? How are you making and tracking changes to legal documents? Can you set up a meeting, share your desktop and distribute transcripts of a conference with the push of a button?)

Millennials Help to Create a Culture of Achievement Balanced with Quality of Life

Human resources professionals in law firms are hearing questions they’ve never been asked before during interviews, such as: “Do you allow associates to work from home?” “Do you allow shorter hours?” “May I take time off for my kids’ games?” While these questions would have been cause for immediate interview conclusion just a decade ago, today they are being taken seriously because entire classes of law school graduates are asking them!

And guess what! Studies show that Millennials are very ambitious (despite their bad reputation). If you give them the opportunity to retain a work-life balance, they will work their butts off for you and give you their loyalty. Bonus: You may also discover that your entire culture shifts and that people are happier.

OK, but once you decide you need to recruit and retain Millennials, how do you do it?

Training and Retaining the Millennial for the Legal Industry

Millennials are eager to learn and contribute! Sometimes too eager… In an August 2017 Legaltech News article titled, “Trying to Train and Retain the Millennial Attorney,” Ian Lopez wrote:

“Incoming attorneys are getting younger, and often, their ideas around solving modern legal problems are more in tune with the modern legal climate.

However, Troutman Sanders partner Alison Grounds was quick to note that “as at most law firms, we … [get] set in our ways.” She described an instance where Troutman had a young associate collecting data from a bank, who felt he didn’t have the proper processing tools at hand. Taking longer than he hoped, the associate took his work home over the weekend, downloaded software on his laptop, and collected and reviewed the data. When the associate came back to the firm on Monday, “He said, ‘Look how smart I am; I figured out this problem.’ So I said, how did you do this? Let’s discuss malpractice.”

You need to be sure that each new lawyer has been steeped in the ways of the firm (especially security protocols!) before handling client work. I’ve written extensively about the on-boarding process and I suggest you check out this article:


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