Deloitte predicts that by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials. Millennials are our future law firm partners and, just as importantly, they are current and future law firm clients. Gemma Crossley looks at what this means when it comes to attracting talent to law firms.
Changing the provision of legal services
As part of understanding how millennials, and millennial lawyers in particular, are changing the legal landscape I recently attended a breakout session on this topic as part of The Leeds Conference. On the panel were two self-proclaimed millennial lawyers and a partner from a law firm who was managing a team that included millennial lawyers. The discussion was largely positive, focusing on how junior lawyers are accelerating change, both in terms of working differently and also in terms of how law firms are communicating with their clients.
What was also interesting, and what I’ve noticed in many recent conversations with candidates and friends in the legal profession, is the view that law firms should be billing and delivering legal services to clients differently. In an increasing buyer’s market, the way millennial law firm clients want to use and pay for legal services is certain to change, with increased focus on what law firms can offer clients in terms of value and in what innovative ways they can communicate with their clients e.g. client facing technology.
Millennial lawyers: what differences have we seen in candidate requirements?
Over recent years I’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of candidates who are seeking a firm that understands and practices good work life balance, has strong cultural values and has taken the step to move away from the hierarchical structure of traditional law firms.
Flexible working patterns appeal, with many junior lawyers putting in long hours but with the flexibility to take a wellbeing break during the day, such as attending the gym at their chosen time. Work and projects are still completed but with the flexibility to fit around people’s lifestyles.
More and more junior candidates are also keen to understand what a firm can offer them, both in terms of career progression and exposure to higher quality caseloads, even at NQ level. The focus is very much on what the firm’s direction is and how they might be best placed to assist the firm in achieving its goals and being part of the bigger picture – for example, a leading commercial firm in Leeds currently runs Q&A sessions with the board for all levels of staff so that they can understand the firm’s direction and also give actionable feedback on what is working well and what isn’t.
So how are organisations adapting?
To attract and retain talented junior lawyers, many of the law firms I work with are adapting to this shift by adopting flexible ways to deliver legal services, whether this is agile working, flexible employment benefits or allowing lawyers to choose their working hours, it seems to be working for firms so far. At interview they’re emphasising the variety of work that junior lawyers can get involved with and what their career journey will look like with that particular firm.
If you’re a firm that’s unable to communicate to a potential hire how they “fit” and what the longer term plan is, you’re probably not going to secure the most talented individuals. Many law firms have also changed how they’re communicating with their clients such as providing smartphone applications where clients can receive updates at the touch of a button.
So what are the consequences of not adapting to this changing talent and client market? Internally, many law firms will eventually see a skills deficit, with talent leaving the firm to join another that understands their differing working styles. Externally, millennial clients potentially won’t work well with a firm that fails to understand their different communication needs in this mobile and data driven world, in particular the way they need to access legal services.
Whilst these changes won’t happen overnight, it’s important to acknowledge that change is happening and that we need to adapt to that, both as employers and providers of legal and other services.