Let’s face facts. Law firms are now full of Millennial lawyers who are the future of their law firms. It is from this pool of associates that future practice leaders, managers, and law firm executives will be drawn. As a result, it is in every law firm’s interest to understand what Millennial lawyers want in their law firms. If your firm understands their needs and desires, and if you can meet them, you will attract high-quality associates, keep associate morale high, reduce associate turnover, create loyalty, and elevate the quality of their work product.
So, what are Millennial lawyers looking for? There are a number of qualities they are seeking in a law firm, and here are some:
1. They yearn for training and mentoring so that each Millennial lawyer can achieve their greatest potential.
2. These young lawyers want to truly believe that their efforts are making a difference to your firm’s clients, to their colleagues and to the community at large.
3. Millennial lawyers want to know that you care deeply about what they think, such as about a case, a motion, a legal issue, a contract clause, a client relationship problem, and so on. These associates want to feel like an important player on the team that the law firm is fielding.
Certainly there are other “wants” for these lawyers, such as a sense of community, an enriching firm culture, work-life balance, opportunities for community service and innovation. But these “wants” actually contribute to the three main desires of Millennial associates that are described above.
What can you as a law firm partner or senior associate do to meet the goals of a Millennial associate? There are many ways throughout the work week where you have such opportunities. Here are a few tips:
1. Be sure to have face time with your associates every day, even if just to state “good morning, how are you today?” or “how was the ballgame yesterday? Did you enjoy it?”
2. Always provide the associate with constructive feedback. If they have done a good job, compliment them. If they have made mistakes or have delivered an unacceptable work product, take the time to use the occasion as a “teaching moment”, not the opportunity to diminish the associate’s self-esteem. Elsewhere you will find an article by this author describing in detail how to increase associate self-esteem.
3. Always ask your associates what they think about a problem, issue, case, motion, contract dispute, and so on. Be sure to show interest in what they are saying and probe for the underlying reasoning, which is actually a component of mentoring and training.
4. Do not be afraid to speak to the associates about their careers. What are their goals? How do they plan to achieve those goals? And try to understand how you, as a senior lawyer, can help the associates to achieve their career goals.
The conduct suggested here will surely help you and your law firm to meet the fundamental goals of every associate – to learn and grow, to be appreciated, and to believe that they are making a difference. In my view not only is it in your best business interest to do this, but you have a moral obligation as an employer and experienced lawyer to help others to achieve their professional goals. While not all associates will succeed, you will enjoy great satisfaction simply knowing you tried to help.