Law360, New York (May 24, 2016, 4:09 PM ET) -- Like it or not, millennials have become a powerful force in the legal industry and your firm's future depends on them, but they have different ideas than previous generations about what work should bring to their lives.
Millennials or members of Generation Y are often viewed as job hoppers with social media-shortened attention spans. But there are plenty of capable and hard-working attorneys born between the early 1980s and late 1990s who have been affected by their front-row seat to the Great Recession of the late 2000s.
Knowing that another economic slowdown could easily mean the end of their job, millennials have fewer delusions about what they're likely to get from their employers, and they don't expect to retire with any one company or firm. But in the time they're with one, they do expect to be taken seriously and viewed as more than a worker bee bending to the iron will of their employer.
If you're wondering why millennials aren’t jumping to join your firm, there are a few things you could be missing:
Your Firm Thinks Money Matters Most
Millennials want a comfortable life, but comfort doesn't just come from what money can buy. Spending time with friends and family and taking an uninterrupted vacation are things any attorney wants, but millennial attorneys are not willing to give them up because they know doing so will not save their jobs during another recession.
"Watching other people's dreams get crushed, they realized they're not going into this rosy, peachy world of law," said Michael Di Gennaro, a senior director with Lateral Link. "They've gotten it out of their heads that they're going to be able to do whatever they want because they had the fortune of witnessing firsthand that that’s not going to happen."
An awareness of how expendable they can be means millennials are less likely to be wooed by money than older generations. Di Gennaro noted that firms trying to keep younger attorneys with the green are ignoring nonmonetary forms of compensation that they would appreciate.
Millennial attorneys would likely be happier and more willing to a join and remain with a firm that offers things like generous maternity and paternity leave and weekends that are not regularly interrupted by work.
"Millennials are not ever going to get the stability their parents have had and they're probably not going to get the quality of life or affluence their parents have had either, but at least, if they're working a 60-hour week, they want to not have to cancel plans all the time," Di Gennaro said. "And a lot of law firms just don't get that."
Your Firm Thinks Working From Home Is an Oxymoron
Another aspect younger attorneys are expecting more and more is a flexible schedule allowing for a good chunk of work to be done outside of the office — something that may be difficult to accept by firms run by older partners.
For anyone who came up in the legal industry before computers were omnipresent, a term like "working from home" can seem almost oxymoronic. But, in order for a firm to thrive and be entrepreneurial today, it needs to recognize that attorneys actually have lives in need of tending outside the office and that the evolution of how work can be completed affords them time to do just that.
"Managers very often manage based on the world that they know, but they need to be open and aware of what's going on in the lives of who they are managing," Di Gennaro said. "They live in a bubble of affluence and don't understand there are attorneys working for them from very modest backgrounds."
He pointed to something like a lack of affordable child care as a genuine issue that many younger attorneys face on a regular basis, making a request for flexible work less about a simple desire than a genuine need.
Danielle Goldstone, a recruiter with Laurence Simons who focuses on in-house moves in North America, told Law360 that younger attorneys are also looking for a genuine work-life balance.
"They want to feel happiness in their jobs and they want to be challenged, but they don't want to feel that their whole life is working," Goldstone said. "They want to feel that work is a part of their life."
Jessica Demuth, a managing director with legal recruiter Major Lindsey & Africa LLC, also noted that younger attorneys are more mobile than ever, with constant and easy access to available opportunities through LinkedIn and even Twitter.
This heightened mobility coupled with a desire for a work-life balance means a Gen Y attorney is unlikely to stay long in an uncomfortable or inflexible work environment.
"Whatever seems more appealing is right in front of their face," Demuth said. "Millennials nowadays, if they're not happy or they're not receiving guidance or they're dealing with a 'screamer' at work, it's not something they're willing to put up with."
Your Firm Doesn't Take Them Seriously
While demands like a flexible schedule and more time off and may already seem like overkill to an older attorney, millennials likely won't be satisfied working with any firm or in-house with any company unless they feel some control over their work.
Chalk it up to the constant stimulation of social media that they grew up using, but younger attorneys want to collaborate with their colleagues and managers. They not only want to be heard, they want to be taken seriously — and they want it sooner than later.
"Gen Y attorneys like to be in a position where they're going to have real input with the work they're doing, where they feel that management will listen to them and they want more responsibility early on," Goldstone said. "It gives them a sense of empowerment and more overall satisfaction in the work they are doing."
In order to foster a sense of involvement, Demuth said she's noticed some firms have been putting more focus and resources into teaching attorneys how to develop business.
From incentivizing networking to paying for business development courses, millennial attorneys see these as opportunities to grow and increase their value as professionals and helps them get excited about the firms they're with, according to Demuth.
"They don't want to necessarily pick a job to pick a job," she said. "They want to understand what their growth is going to be in the industry."
--Editing by Katherine Rautenberg and Patricia K. Cole.