June 5, 2014

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Industry Outlook: Legal

June 5, 2014

And with that shift comes a way of working with people outside of the office. If they want to work from home, we also allow them to work from home. We can email, we can communicate. We’re even to the point where our cell phones are now being used for videoconferencing so that, even though they may not be in the office, we can actually see them.

LARSON: We’ve also found that money doesn’t motivate the Millennials. They’re motivated by a lot of other things, and work/life balance is a critical issue for them. We’ve tried to incorporate that into our training plan, giving all of our associates mentors, giving them the professional development and the tasks that they need to develop professionally. They want responsibility. We want to give lawyers the latitude so they have a sense of satisfaction in their work life as well as their personal life. We utilize technology to let them work remotely if they want to or they need to. We encourage business development.

Long gone are the days that you could just throw out a bonus or a decent salary and they would work really hard to achieve that. It has to be something much more than that. So we’re really in tune to that and we’re always trying to find ways to motivate these young people.

As you deal with this younger group, what are some of their fears and their goals and their interests, and how are you addressing those so that you have loyalty and longevity amongst them?

JARVIS: We have organized our firm around practice groups, and the practice groups work across the firm internationally. It allows us to involve the associates immediately in the business of the firm as well as with our clients.

We spend a significant amount of time mentoring associates. They have formal mentors that work with them, give them feedback, because they are concerned: Am I making the grade? They’re used to a very structured environment in school where they knew what they needed to do to get an A and they got it, and now they’re in an environment where the expectations aren’t as clear. So in mentoring them, we try to help them understand how to work with various bosses within the firm, to meet client needs. They need that feedback.

It also allows us to put them in teams so they can succeed together, they can work together and create their work/life balance better as they pass work back and forth. It gives them interesting, challenging work to do. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the market, and they need attention to know that they’re important and they’re being fostered and taught, that they can be successful.

BURTON: From the summer law clerks, we make extra efforts to get them two things: training and substantive involvement in something they can see is meaningful. In other words, give them some really interesting work to do. But the training and mentoring is key to give them the tools they need to learn how to do what we’re asking them to do.

Maybe it’s just because of the associates we’ve hired, but in the last two or three years the tables have shifted a little bit in the sense that these young attorneys are grateful for a job, because their classmates aren’t getting them. To get a job with a good firm, with interesting work, with good compensation is security that they have that a lot of their classmates don’t. We see an uptick in the dedication to the work, to the firm, a real interest in learning how to do our profession, how to work at it so that they can have job security in the years to come. They see that the economy is changing for law firms and attorneys in general, and it is a valuable thing to have a firm where they can learn how to be lawyers.

OWENS: While our firms have had to be more flexible with younger lawyers, they understand that clients are less flexible in terms of requiring immediate attention, sending out a text or an email with a 20-page contract and wanting you to review it and call them back in five minutes with your impressions. And so the young people, although they may come to the office less or be less rigid in their partnership track, they realize that they’re still basically available 24 hours now to clients.

GROSS: We may be a little too hard on the current generation. I remember the same comments being made about my generation 20 years ago. My experience is still that younger associates thrive on responsibility and are motivated by compensation. But some of that is just giving them responsibility so that they have some self-esteem in doing the work and seeing that their work actually translates to something. The biggest challenge is that a greater proportion of the talent graduating from law schools are female, and trying to retain that talent and trying to accommodate their particular home situation so that they stay with the firm—that is the biggest challenge.

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