Thursday, May 14, 2015

4 Ways Millennials are Changing the Legal Industry


Now that millennials are entering the workforce in droves, law firms are feeling the full effects of working alongside their '80s and '90s-born counterparts. The generation, despite it's negative reputation, is an interesting and often-debated group. Truth be told, if you're over the age of 30, you've probably witnessed (or participated in) your fair share of complaint-filled conversations with coworkers.

More often than not, the millennial name surfaces alongside feelings of entitlement and the need for hand-holding, but the reality is that the millennials, in tandem with new media and technology, are changing the game for countless industries. After much research and debate, the MerusCase team has come up with the 4 biggest ways that millennials are changing the legal industry (for the better, we think):

1. They embrace technology.

Millennials come from a world where technology is second nature, where social media is a way of life, and where having a smart phone, tablet, eReader, laptop, and desktop computer open at the same time is the norm. That said, it's no surprise that they expect technology to be a staple in their place of work. Millennials see the intrinsic value of things like cloud-based practice management systems and they thrive in a place where these technologies enable them to access more information than ever before, providing them with increased ownership over their work.

Perhaps the best part of this natural inclination towards technology is the fact that it makes millennials far more efficient than their technology-resistant peers, especially when you consider that most firms are operating with higher attorney to legal assistant ratios than ever before. [1] Firms should welcome legal technology with open arms if they wish to be perceived as tech savvy and desirable workplaces by the millennials that will surely join their ranks in the years to come.

2. They demand mobility and work-life balance.

Younger workers see that technology frees them to work productively from anywhere, yet their bosses don't seem to trust their ability to work as hard and get as much done remotely. [2] This poses a problem when over 70% of full-time workers aged 18-29 state that they would be more satisfied if they could work remotely using cloud software. [3]

According to a study done at PwC, employees across all generations say they would be willing to forego some pay and delay promotions in exchange for reducing their hours. [4] Millennials may not have a significant other or kids to go home to, but that doesn't mean that they don't want time to pursue their personal interests and grow their skill set outside of work. In order to appeal to this millennial need for balance, employers should be prepared to consider the possibility of allowing employees to work from home or telecommute when necessary (such as when the cost of big city life, when combined with crushing student loans, force them to relocate).

3. They're disrupting archaic hierarchies of power.

As children, millennials were taught that "anything is possible." [5] This intense can-do-will-do attitude permeates all aspects of their lives and pushes them to constantly innovate professionally and otherwise. In fact, according to a recent survey published by Deloitte, 62% of millennials describe themselves as innovative and 78% believe that innovation is essential for business growth. [6] This self-assigned innovation leads younger workers to thrive in a work environment where the best ideas and creativity are valued and rewarded as opposed to age and tenure.

In the legal field, where seniority can play a monumental role in the way that power is distributed across a firm, it's easy to see how the millennial innovative spirit may not mesh well with current processes. In order to create a firm where younger workers feel valued and empowered, firm leadership should embrace a relatively flat organizational structure where an open flow of communication is encouraged and feedback is offered regularly.

4. It's not all about the money.

Unlike many previous generations, millennials are far more concerned in choosing a company that aligns with their personal values versus using salary as a sole deciding factor on their place of employment. For many, loving their job can be far more important than raking in an impressive salary and, in that sense, jobs and careers are carefully chosen stepping stones that allow them to execute on their life purpose. [7] In fact, 64% of young people say that it's a priority for them to make the world a better place! [8]

In order to attract the best and the brightest young legal professionals, firms should offer a culture that young people want. [9] So what's the solution to creating a desirable firm culture? It's not weekly company happy hours, catered lunches, and free MacBook Airs (although that wouldn't be something to complain about); instead, millennials are looking for value-based careers, mentorship opportunities, room for growth, work-life balance, and the ability to contribute to meaningful work that truly makes an impact.

That's all we have to add to the conversation, but now it's your turn to weigh in: do you have any millennials working at your firm? Have they changed your firm culture at all? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted by Marissa Vessels on Thursday May 14, 2015 0 Comments

Labels: Strategy

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