This story is part of a series exploring how law firms and others in the legal industry are adapting to manage their millennial workers, from recruitment and real estate to training and technology and beyond. Read our overview here.
Millennials make up the largest generational group among lawyers at large and midsize firms, although most of them are still associates.
Data collected by ALM Intelligence shows that the millennials (ages 18 to 36) now outnumber lawyers from Generation X (ages 37 to 52) at firms in the Am Law 200 and The National Law Journal’s NLJ 500. And they far outnumber baby boomers (ages 53 to 71).
The numbers starkly illustrate the reality facing law firm leaders: Millennials will soon take over the legal profession in sheer numbers—and soon enough they’ll dominate leadership positions and partnerships too.
Millennials make up 47,000, or 43 percent, of lawyers at the nearly 400 firms included in the ALI data. They comprise 88 percent of associates, and just 5 percent of partners.
Generation X has the next greatest number of lawyers, at 36,600. But the group makes up 52 percent of partners.
Baby boomers still have a noticeable presence at these firms, with about 24,000 lawyers, but they’ve become less dominant than Gen X in the partnership ranks, making up 40 percent of partners.
The Silent Generation, also known as traditionalists, and the Greatest Generation, which came before them, have mostly retired. There are fewer than 1,700 lawyers from those generations left at law firms, and they make up just 2 percent of partners.
FLOCKING TO CALIFORNIA
Generally, if you’re a millennial lawyer, you want to be in a large city, or in California. Of the 10 largest metro areas by GDP, seven were also within the top 10 locations by percentage lawyers who are millennials (not including metro areas with less than 100 lawyers).
Also in that top 10 were San Jose, San Diego and Fresno, which are ranked 14th, 17th and 63rd for GDP. So with those three included, California cities make up five of the top 10 for millennial lawyers.
The area with the highest concentration of millennial lawyers was San Jose, at 47 percent. New York came in second at 45 percent, and Boston, with 44 percent millennials, was third.
Chicago, the third largest metro area, fell just outside the top 10, with millennials accounting for 38 percent of lawyers at the surveyed firms.
But two of the largest metro area that fell further behind on their share of millennial lawyers were Philadelphia and Atlanta. These two areas are the eighth and 10th largest by GDP, but ranked 17th and 20th, respectively, for the percentage of millennial lawyers they have.
MORE MONEY, MORE MILLENNIALS
Employing millennials appears to go hand-in-hand with profitability—illustrating how Big Law continues to use rainmakers to land major clients and young lawyers to put in long hours serving them. At the top 10 firms by profits per equity partner, 61 percent of lawyers were millennials. That percentage decreased with each tier of profitability. Among firms outside the top 100 most profitable, the percentage of millennial lawyers was just 33.
Millennial lawyers also appear to be more populous at law firms with the largest head counts. The top 50 firms by head count employ the greatest proportion of millennials by a long shot, as 46 percent of their attorneys belong to that generation. These firms would tend to have the highest leverage, leading to a greater population of young, millennial lawyers.
The next 50 largest firms had 38 percent millennials. Firms 101 to 200 by head count were 34 percent millennial. And at the other 300 firms included in the data, 31 percent of lawyers were millennials.
Millennials made up half or more of the lawyer head count at 37 law firms out of 380 included in the data.
FIRM BY FIRM
The interactive chart below breaks down percentages of millennial lawyers by firm and by office. Hover over each firm to view the data.
ALM Intelligence compiled this data using information available on websites of law firms in the Am Law 200 and NLJ 500. After gathering publicly available lawyer biographical data from those websites, ALI used their graduation dates from law school to estimate ages of all lawyers, based on the average age of new law school graduates, allowing lawyers to be divided into generational groups. Law firms with insufficient data on their websites were not included.
As this data makes use of firm-reported data and age estimates, it may not be exact for each firm listed.