As a millennial, I am frequently asked questions about how firms and companies can better attract and retain millennial attorneys. Trendy media articles often portray people of my generation in a negative way. If a partner or recruiting manager reads too many articles about how millennials are entitled, obsessed with avocado toast, or ruining the housing market, they may be predisposed to think the worst of the generation. However, I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with many millennial attorneys that are hardworking, extremely responsible, and grounded as a result of coming of age during the recession, when many of their loved ones and mentors lost homes and life savings. By understanding some of the hurdles that millennials face and what they value, boomers and gen Xers may be better able to understand millennial attorneys and make more informed decisions when recruiting or integrating them into their firms and companies.
THE FINANCIAL REALITY
One of the most defining characteristics of the millennial generation is the cost of education and the amount of debt that most millennial attorneys face upon graduation. The website lstreports.com (Law School Transparency or LST) can offer insight into what a recent law school graduate may be facing financially. For example, for 2018 Arizona State University Law School graduates, LST reported a projected debt of $177,164 for residents and $245,377 for non-residents. With that amount of debt, recent graduates are looking at repayment of $2,021 per month for 10 years for residents or $2,813 per month for 10 years for non-residents. If you have an associate that seems financially stressed or hyper-focused on money, their law school repayments might be why.
THE POWER OF MENTORSHIP
With the great burden of debt that most young attorneys face, firms and companies are often surprised to find that while making a living wage is important, money is often not the most important thing to millennial attorneys. For example, millennial attorneys highly value good and effective mentorship. They want to be at a job where they feel valued and are learning to be better in their practice.
Some partners express frustration that the millennial generation requires too much “back patting” and “hand holding.” Partners often relate stories of “the good old days” where rough mentors screamed at them or gave very little feedback. However, if firms and companies are willing to embrace a positive mentoring culture they can see exceptional results. For example, I have heard positive feedback from both partners and associates in Arizona at firms that have shifted to better support and reward good mentorship. In these firms, there is a clear mentorship structure in place. Partners are recognized and rewarded when providing strong mentorship to their associates. In return, the partners and the firm enjoy the benefit: Better-trained associates that are very loyal to their employers.
24/7 AVAILABILITY AND THE VALUE OF FLEXIBILITY
I know very few millennials, including myself, that are not available by phone or email on a nearly 24-hour basis. There are huge benefits to having associates and employees that are available in this way. However, that is not the way it was 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, even the lowliest associate could go camping or on vacation and have a full break from their work. Today, millennials are notoriously bad at disconnecting and the risk of burnout is real. If you have an associate that is available 24/7 and billing at night at home or on vacation, try to reward that associate with more flexible options during the work day or week. For example, if an associate is being productive and hitting required hours or goals, be supportive or even encouraging if they leave early for a doctor’s appointment or occasionally work remotely.
Make sure that time expectations are clearly communicated. If in addition to a billing requirement you expect your associates to be available for face-to-face communications at any time between 8 am and 5 pm, make sure they know that. We live in an ever-changing digital world where the work day looks very different depending on what firm or corporate culture you practice in. Don’t assume that your associates know what your expectations are before you’ve voiced them.
In general, technology that allows an employee to do work remotely and easily is very important to millennial attorneys. I often hear from frustrated associates who feel misunderstood by their firms when it comes to requesting better technological support and I’ve seen associates switch firms because of it. If you want the benefits that come from around-the-clock connectivity, be
Remember millennials are individuals with unique motivations and concerns. Employers need to understand their employees and have a sense of what potential hires value in order to better attract and retain talent of any generation.