The legal profession has undergone significant transformations over the years, and one of the driving forces behind these changes is the influx of Millennials, also known as Generation Y. Millennials are now a prominent demographic within the legal field, bringing with them unique perspectives, values and approaches.
In this blog, we will explore the impact of Millennials in the legal profession – looking at the challenges and opportunities for young lawyers and how firms are adapting to the unique characteristics of the Millennial generation.
There are 5 main changes we’ve noticed:
1. Tech-Savvy Approach
One of the defining features of Millennials is their comfort and proficiency with technology. These days there is much less communication by phone or in person – and a notable increase in reliance on email, text or even social media.
While this shift makes life easier for being able to work outside of the office, at home for example, providing more flexibility than the traditional 9-5 office hours it also brings about heightened expectations– not just clients expecting replies to their queries outside of working hours but also sometimes the employer.
A recent candidate shared an experience where her boss would send her emails after 10pm expressing dissatisfaction if ignored. Gone are the days when you’d receive a letter from Solicitors on the other side of a case and you’d have a couple of days grace – to receive it, review it and draft a response.
Reflecting on the changing landscape, one Partner quite a few years back, when asked if they had a fax machine boasted that they didn’t otherwise clients could contact them any time!
2. Work-life Balance and Flexibility
Work-life balance is a key priority for Millennials and more important to them often than salary. With shifting gender roles, there’s a growing trend of both parents actively participating in child-rearing responsibilities. In contrast to older generations, often the father was typically the primary breadwinner and had limited time with the children. More fathers today seek a balance between spending time with their children and engaging in fulfilling career paths.
For Millennials, the desire for work-life balance extends beyond childcare, it includes personal interests outside of work, such as fitness or other hobbies.
The conventional model of working round the clock for financial gain and status holds less appeal to this generation. Instead, they value the flexibility of being able to work irregular hours even if the pay is not fixed.
This is still a challenge for the legal profession, especially the more traditional law firms, however, we are seeing a notable increase in more part-time roles, including the senior level.
Many clients initially seek full-time candidates but often state they will also consider part-time arrangements. Obviously, since Covid most firms are now offering a lot more flexibility to their staff regarding working hours, with a lot more hybrid arrangements such as 2 or 3 days working from home and early starts and finishes to avoid rush hours. There are also more firms becoming more receptive to alternative arrangements including consultancy arrangements and fee-sharing structures.
3. No lifelong commitment to a single firm
Long gone are the days of a lifelong commitment to a single firm – Millennials are increasingly open to navigating different professional landscapes to fulfil their aspirations. It’s not so much one firm for life anymore and sometimes not even one career. This shift contradicts the traditional lengthy career paths of enduring a 10 year hard journey to partnership.
Reviewing CVs of Solicitors, it’s now very rare to see Solicitors at the same firm for 10 years or so, a stark departure from the more traditional career paths of the older generation. The older generation followed a more traditional path – school, college, university, job and then retire – patiently navigating their careers with a focus on stability and savings.
In contrast, the younger generation are less patient and are more accustomed to everything happening at the same time. Moreover, they demonstrate a heightened comfort with debt, such as university loans and credit cards to achieve their desires more quickly.
4. Business development
This is just a standard part of every job spec now. Gone are the days when clients naturally gravitated towards us; instead, we must proactively seek and engage them. Beyond possessing technical knowledge and experience, Solicitors are increasingly required to be more of a business-oriented mindset. This involves showcasing strong networking and marketing skills, substantiated by tangible examples. With the proliferation of law firms, competition for clients has intensified, and clients, in turn, have become more discerning, readily switching to new firms if their expectations aren’t met.
5. More focussed on personal development
A growing emphasis on individual growth remains a prominent driver for job transitions. Frequently cited reasons for seeking new opportunities include a lack of support, inadequate training and no career progression. Other main reasons are usually:
- Salary concerns – no regular increases, if any
- A desire for more flexible Working hours
- Dissatisfaction with the office environment, including cultural issues and an excessive workload for a single fee earner
In response to these evolving priorities, firms are enhancing benefits packages, such as:
- Expanded holiday allowance – 25 days+ and time off during the Christmas period, when many firms now close
- Additional day off on one’s birthday
- Flexible work arrangements, including flexi-time
- Hybrid working; 2 or 3
days working from home is now common, especially for senior Fee Earners,
- Implementationof mentoring programs
- Provision of break-out areas with amenities like tables, x-boxes
- Dress down days
- Fruit boxes
- Yoga classes
- Unwinding with Prosecco trolley on a Friday!
These enhanced benefits packages reflect an effort by firms to align with the evolving needs and expectations of their workforce, placing a greater emphasis on personal development, work-life balance, and a positive office environment.
The presence of Millennials in the legal profession is reshaping the industry, bringing about positive changes in technology adoption, work culture, and social responsibility. As Millennials continue to ascend into leadership roles, their impact on the legal landscape will only grow.
Claire Cox, Director of Bailey Hunter, has over 20 years of experience working in the legal sector. She qualified as a Solicitor in 1998 and practised as a Solicitor in Newcastle for 3 years. In 2002 she made her move into recruitment and in 2008 founded Bailey Hunter. She works with some of the top law firms in Yorkshire and the North East.