Qualities to Look for When Hiring Millennial Associates

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In recent years, the Millennial generation has become the largest segment of the professional workforce. The youngest cohort of this generation is now in their mid-to-late twenties, which means many incoming associates will come from this age group.  

While a lot has been made of the unique demands and characteristics of Millennials in the workforce, this new generation of professionals have similar aspirations for their legal careers as their predecessors. 


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However, coming of age during two unprecedented economic downturns, the 2008 Great Recession and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic, has made some Millennials skittish about making long-term commitments to an employer. The American Bar Association noted in 2018, Millennial associates have shorter tenures on average

Since turnover is costly for law firms, making sure a candidate is a good fit from the very beginning can improve retention rates for Millennial associates.  Look out for the following qualities during the interview stage:


Mentorship and training opportunities are a few of the most effective retention strategies a legal firm can offer. However, employees must be open to feedback and coaching in order to reap the maximum benefit of these programs. 


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Although blanket statements such as “all Millennials have a victim mentality,” are far from the truth, some members of this cohort can be sensitive to negative feedback. 

Asking candidates questions about how they handle change, constructive criticism, and discomfort can give interviewers a good idea of how they will fare in a mentoring relationship. 

Training programs also appeal to candidates with long-term professional goals. Touching upon this topic in the interview can help determine if the firm’s development programs align with the candidate’s future plans. 


In very generalized terms, Millennials, like Boomers, prefer working in teams. However, as many firms transition to hybrid workplaces and remote teams, the ability to work independently is becoming more and more essential to success. 


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The highest performing individuals in remote workplaces demonstrate traits like resilience, strong time management, and foresight. Relatedly, associates with these qualities are also necessary for firms to successfully adapt to hybrid workplaces and offer highly-desirable benefits like flexible work schedules.

Candidates who have taken the initiative in past positions to start new programs or develop more effective processes will thrive in workplaces that offer more autonomy. 


While open door policies are becoming the norm, most law firms are still organized into rigid hierarchies. As the education system and overall culture leans towards flatter hierarchies, many incoming Millennial associates will be encountering a vertical hierarchy for the first time. 

Lack of experience navigating this type of professional environment doesn’t have to be a deal breaker if the individual has the capacity to adapt the firm’s expectations and established culture. 

Situational interview questions can assess a candidate’s adaptability. For example, asking how the candidate would handle conflict or challenges within a hypothetical context. Associates who can strike a balance between leadership and collaboration will bring the most value to their team. 


There is a significant difference in the type of overblown confidence described in the Millennial stereotype and true confidence gained through experience.

The so-called Millennial confidence that derives from a childhood full of participation trophies does not hold up to challenges or set-backs. However, earned confidence comes from overcoming obstacles. 

During the interview, zero in on how the candidate has reacted to failure. If the candidate’s response shows tenacity, problem-solving skills, and the ability to reflect, chances are they will bring those traits into future challenges. On the other hand, evasive responses can signal that the candidate may quickly get in over their head. 

Aligned Values

While earlier generations would have been content working on their passion causes during their off hours, Millennials prefer that their day job aligns with their life’s purpose. Due to their preference for a work-life blend, Millennials place a high emphasis on the values held by their employers. The legal field is no different. 

Invite candidates to share what matters to them by asking about how they envision themselves giving back to the community. Their answers will give insight into how closely their values match with those professed by the legal firm. 

Be aware, it is not enough to talk the talk. Millennials are highly skeptical of firms that portray their value set in one way on paper, but fail to follow through with action and policy. If a firm markets itself to candidates as family-orientated, it should offer the flexible leave and maternity/paternity benefits to match. 


High rates of Millennial turnover can be attributed to many factors, but the underlying force is motivation. Younger workers are simply driven by different motivators than previous generations. (Money, on the other hand, remains a highly motivating factor, and firms must pay associates what they are worth.)

The promise of a title after years of working up the ladder isn’t enough. Millennials need transparency. Firms that provide a clear path for professional development and skill acquisition are much better positioned to attract and retain Millennial talent. 

If a firm is serious about a candidate, get to know what makes them tick. How do they prefer to be recognized? What motivates them to come into work every day? Knowing these answers will enable firms to put effective associate retention programs in place.

Anne Davis

Anne Davis is a blogger and online copywriter from Northwest Portland. She relocated to Southern California before college and after majoring in journalism and English she found her way into online blogging and writing.

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