overseas-shipped legal services are
chipping away at the simple bread-and-butter tasks that once gave
lawyers countless hours to bill.
Now, the vast majority of remaining law firm legal work is complex—often requiring high-level
decision-making and creative problem-solving. Almost 70 percent
of the U.S. job growth occurs in
professions that require this kind
of complex thinking, according
to a study from consulting firm
McKinsey & Co.
To perform these jobs well, you can’t be
motivated purely by traditional carrots and
sticks. Numerous studies demonstrate that
focusing on financial compensation actually
thwarts creative problem-solving—whereas
passion, purpose, and striving for personal
accomplishment stimulates creative thinking.
In other words, those $180,000 major-market associate starting salaries won’t help
retention unless the firms innovate in other
WE DON’T WANT
Yes, you read that correctly. Everything
you’ve heard about millennials wanting large
blocks of dedicated time off to surf in Costa
Rica and hang-glide off the cliffs of the Swiss
Alps is wrong. Allow me to explain.
Baby boomers grew up in a time when
“don’t take the office home with you” was
the prevailing wisdom. And it made sense for
a number of reasons. When you’ve worked
in a hierarchical environment building work
and home empires, you want to construct
those empires based on separate sets of values. When you seek a paycheck from work
and fulfillment from your free time, you want
to keep those aspects of your life separate.
Plus, in the pre-laptop era, “taking the office
home” meant lugging a heavy briefcase full
of papers and files. That vision of work–life
balance sliced up the day like a pie: a sliver
of family time in the morning, then a large
wedge of work during the rest of the day,
and then another helping of family time in
Technology has obliterated those separa-
tions. Email and smartphone calls have in-
creasingly encroached on personal time to
the extent that we are all finding it challeng-
ing to navigate this fast-changing world.
But millennials approach it from a different
Millennials are digital natives who are used
to being constantly connected to our friends,
coworkers, bosses, families, teachers, and an
entire virtual world. In our circular minds,
our work and our personal life are as inter-connected as the World Wide Web. We seek
fulfillment and enjoyment from both, so we
don’t need to divide them in our schedules.
In fact, we want to take the office home:
75 percent of us would like to work remotely
some or all the time, according to the 2016
Deloitte Millennial Survey. We prefer a flexible schedule that allows us to hit the gym in
the middle of the day and stay late at the
office, or to complete a project in a cafe.
Maybe take a Tuesday to hike and instead
work on a Saturday. We think the focus
should be on accomplishing work goals, not
filling up hours in a rigid schedule. Even
when traveling, there are many millennials
who would prefer to blend work into their
trips so they don’t feel like they have to rush
home before they have to declare email
bankruptcy from all of the unread messages.
Instead of work–life balance, we want
law firms and legal environments that support a manageable work–life blend.
DOESN’T MEAN WE
DON’T RESPECT YOU
Let’s play word association. If you’re a
boomer and you hear the word “communi-
cation,” you’ll probably conjure a face-to-face
conversation or a phone call. If you’re a mil-
lennial, you might imagine texting, Slack,
Facebook, FaceTime or an informal chat
over a latte.
Obviously, each generation
views communication differently.
Among Americans younger than
50, texting has become the most
frequently used form of communication, according to a 2014 Gallup poll. Most people older than
50 prefer phone calls. If the poll
had asked about in-person conversations, those would no doubt
rank even higher. Boomers and
Gen Xers focus on the method of
communication and rue the lost
art of conversation. Millennials focus on the
act of communication and feel it can take
lots of effective forms.
But our generations also have a lot in
common. We’re all overwhelmed by the
multitude of communication forms we use
in our work life. Even for digital natives, it’s
exhausting to text, Facebook, Instagram,
Tweet, IM, FaceTime, email, call and have
We’re all struggling to acquire the skills
necessary to master each medium. A few decades ago, if you wanted to boost your communication game, you might have gone to a
CLE packed with tips on improving your
interpersonal and conversational skills. Now,
you have to learn email and texting etiquette,
Instagram effectiveness, Facebook Live skills,
LinkedIn presentation, Twitter versus Snap-chat audience optimization—and the five
other things that were invented while you
were learning those. A law firm partner can
no longer simply tell associate attorneys to
improve their communication skills. Which
one of the dozens do they mean?
We also all waste a lot of energy navigating
generation gaps and personal preferences.
To ask someone a question, we have to consider several options: Do they prefer email,
or text, or a phone call? Is Facebook much
less professional than email, even though
the messages end up in the same inbox? Will
using an exclamation point make me sound
immature, or will not using it make me
sound like a zombie? Why am I sending this
epic email instead of walking down the hall
to talk? Did I just hit “reply all”?
Millennials also typically communicate in
a more casual manner than people from previous generations, which often gets misinterpreted as disrespectful or unprofessional.
San Francisco-based tech attorney Patricia
WANT LAW FIRMS