Baby boomers, defined as those born between 1946 and 1964, are steadily retiring from the legal industry. The American Lawyer reports that while almost half of AmLaw 200 partners were baby boomers in 2016, 16 percent of law firm partners will retire in the next five years – and 38 percent will retire within the next decade.
Who will replace these partners? Enter millennials.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials, defined as those born in the early 1980s to 2000, comprise nearly a quarter of all lawyers today. By 2025, they will represent 75 percent of the global workforce. The demographic shift is approaching quickly, and the law firms that want to maintain a competitive advantage should begin fostering the next generation of leaders.
A few considerations to get started:
Provide Training: According to a study in Harvard Business Review, one secret to successfully managing millennials is coaching. The study showed that millennials truly value coaching and training from their supervisors; in fact, they want feedback 50 percent more often than other generations.
Allow Them to Become Invested: Millennials seek ownership of their tasks. They want to ensure their work matters to their firm’s success. They are not afraid of getting their hands dirty, but they need to see that they have a meaningful stake in the process and outcomes. Telling these young attorneys to simply “do” something without explaining the big picture just won’t keep them invested.
Be Open-Minded: Don’t look past the value these lawyers bring to your firm. Millennials are technologically savvy, creative, open to diversity in the workplace and able to multitask. Not to mention, they also have a strong passion for giving back to their communities and are committed to pro bono work.
Many law firms already have begun cultivating their future leaders. Take Seward & Kissel LLP as an example. This year, Chambers Associate ranked the firm as the top law firm in the nation for associate satisfaction. Associates – most of whom are millennials – lauded the firm for providing “a lot of hands-on experience very early on” and appreciated being exposed to the “full gamut” of legal work from day one. These younger lawyers were also keen to praise the firm’s pro bono work with HerJustice, an organization that provides legal services to indigent women.
While many firms have taken small steps to embrace younger lawyers – like offering paid parental leave and flexible work hours – more needs to be done to close the generational divide currently swelling within many firms. The future of law firms depends on it.