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Something is awry in Texas firms. Take a hard look at your legal team’s junior members and your summer associates. They may appear the same as the seasoned attorneys in your practice. But they’re a breed apart. And their influence will forever change the way law firms operate. This is not an excerpt from the “X-Files”; it’s a quick glimpse into the nature of Generation X. This population segment is responsible for some of the most significant trends impacting the profession today: from astronomical six-figured new associate salaries, to the khakis you now wear at the office on Fridays. There are only 35 million Generation Xers — 22 years old to 36 years old — compared with 85 million individuals born during the Baby Boom. The shrinking workforce has a lot to do with the power they wield. Of course, there are other factors at work: record low unemployment; a robust economy contributing to an increasing demand for attorneys; and the emergence of dot-com companies, siphoning off a surprising number of partnership-track professionals with the lure of lucrative stock options. Generation X is changing the way today’s workforce operates. Here’s what you need to know to keep them happy: � Fork out the dough. The legal profession is used to paying top dollar to obtain the best qualified candidates. But with leading Texas firms now offering $100,000-plus to nab recent graduates, salaries and bonuses may need adjustment to keep those already on the payroll content. The same rule applies when recruiting experienced attorneys. Money talks. � Dress down. Even the most staid firms are beginning to break the professional dress code. Younger members of your practice will appreciate the opportunity to don casual attire, even if it’s only on Fridays or when there are no client meetings. Generation X has a less formal approach to life and the more laid-back appearance may appeal to your clients, as well. Several firms have changed their dress policy thanks to the dot-com clientele they now serve. � Speak up. Provide frequent feedback. This generation grew up with instant gratification and they have interpersonal dynamics to match. Those who offer on-the-spot compliments and guidance are more likely to build stronger relationships with a Gen Xer. � Think beyond billable hours. Attorneys enter the profession knowing their first years will be devoted to generating billable hours. And despite this generation’s desire for a more balanced lifestyle, the practice will not soon change significantly. However, a shrewd organization will offer its attorneys flex-time, consider part-time positions and provide technology to make it easier to work from home. A liberal vacation package also helps. Beyond policy, however, it’s really an attitude conveyed by the firm that it’s OK to strive for balance in your life. Employers that honor the need for employees to attend to family emergencies, as well as family functions such as school performances, create a work environment that encourages the workforce to go the extra mile.

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