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This article is the first in 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. 

For law firms wringing their hands about how to manage the millennial generation – or asking why they should adapt to this crop of young lawyers in the first place – here’s the bad news: If you’re still clinging to traditional models for training associates and running the partnership, you’ve already fallen behind.

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Law Firms Mentioned

<em><a href="http://www.almcms.com/contrib

  • Morgan Lewis Bockius
  • Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell
  • Orrick Herrington Sutcliffe
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

/uploads/sites/378/2017/10/Managing-Millennials.jpg"><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-69025" src="http://www.almcms.com/contrib

  • Morgan Lewis Bockius
  • Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell
  • Orrick Herrington Sutcliffe
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

/uploads/sites/378/2017/10/Managing-Millennials.jpg" alt="" width="1024" height="512" /></a>This article is the first in 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.��</em> For law firms wringing their hands about how to manage the millennial generation���or asking why they should adapt to this crop of young lawyers in the first place���here���s the bad news: If you���re still clinging to traditional models for training associates and running the partnership, you���ve already fallen behind. The millennials are here, they���re climbing the ranks, and they���ve already begun to transform the industry. But there���s good news, too. A decade after the financial crisis highlighted the industry���s vulnerability, many firms now recognise the need for new strategies. And for those that get this generation right, the changes they embrace may be key to success in a new era for legal services. <strong>Managing millennials</strong> Of course, the arrival of the millennials���born between the early 1980s and late 1990s���doesn���t mark the first turning of the generational tide for most firms. But there is a difference this time, and it���s not just traits like millennials��� networking savvy, or their much-hyped need for recognition. The difference is the timing. Millennials, with all their generational quirks, are working their way up in the legal industry at the same time that many law firms face critical decisions about how to stay relevant in the greater economy���including how to compete for talent with the rising tech sector and legal industry disrupters. At the same time, young lawyers��� millennial cohort are increasingly running the companies that firms want to represent. It���s no surprise then that firm leaders are paying attention. Many are already taking action. Morgan Lewis &amp; Bockius and other firms are implementing remote working programs for associates that would have once been unimaginable. A number of firms have moved, remodeled or completely overhauled their physical workplaces with millennials in mind, favouring common areas, for example, over large corner offices. Beyond work-life balance perks and in-house baristas, firms are giving young lawyers the influence they crave. Orrick Herrington &amp; Sutcliffe is getting junior partners involved in strategic planning through a newly-created commission. Skadden Arps Slate, Meagher &amp; Flom is letting associates pitch business ideas through an innovation contest. ���We are selling our talent,��� said Jodie Garfinkel, director of lawyer development at Skadden. ���And, therefore, we are always listening to what our talent needs, so we can attract the best and the brightest.��� <strong>Facing reality</strong> Law firm leaders have followed two main approaches to dealing with millennial employees,��says Jordan Furlong, a legal industry analyst at Law 21. The first way is simply making them fit into the traditional law firm model, like a square peg in a round hole. The results, he says are�����spectacularly unsuccessful.��� The alternative, Furlong says, is accepting millennials for who they are and working with their tendencies and preferences, instead of against them. ���What���s becoming more apparent to me is that law firms need millennial lawyers a lot more than millennials need the law firms,��� Furlong adds. ���They might not think they do, but every day, we get closer to an entire generation of rainmakers and relationship partners and corner-office heavyweights shifting into retirement.��� Marcie Borgal Shunk, founder of law firm consultancy the Tilt Institute, says firm leaders��� continued fixation on the generation is to be expected as millennials continue to fill the associate ranks, and as they begin to infiltrate the partnership level. ���It���s true of virtually every industry right now,��� Borgal Shunk says. ���It is compounded in the legal industry because of the nature of the partnership track and the structure of the law firm.��� With baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) largely on the brink of retirement, law firms are about to experience a major leadership vacuum, which Generation Xers (born 1965 to early 1980s) alone will be unable to fill. ���The millennial generation and the baby boomer generation are both much larger than Generation X,��� Borgal Shunk says. ���The millennials ultimately will be the ones to spearhead the industry into its evolution. Whatever new law is going to look like, it���s going to be the millennials leading it.��� The demographic mismatch is real. According to Pew Research Center, there were around 75 million millennials in 2015 and 75 million Baby Boomers, but there were only 66 million Gen Xers. Borgal Shunk says firms often ask her how they should approach training millennials for a future heading up the firm. And multiple firm leaders say they provide training for partners, through internal and external resources, on how to bridge the generational gap. ���There���s a lot of media coverage around ���they want to work at home in sweatpants.��� That���s such an oversimplification,��� says Siobhan Handley, chief talent officer at Orrick Herrington &amp; Sutcliffe. ���They are the key to the future.��� <strong>The power of options</strong> Generation X, like many lawyers before them, came up in a strict, hierarchical, traditional law firm environment. And until recently, young lawyers�� effectively had to adapt or get out of the legal industry. Career alternatives are changing that though. ��� Options��include in-house lawyering���in the fast-rising tech sector and elsewhere. But they also include positions with alternative legal service providers, virtual law firms, and legal jobs in other professional services businesses. While the millennial generation is large, fewer of its ranks are going to law school, and even fewer are enticed by the traditional law firm lifestyle, argues Handley, of Orrick. ���There���s just much more competition, a much smaller talent pool, and then that group when they���re coming in, they���re not staying,��� she says. ���Partnership is not the Holy Grail it once was.��� And with this shift in aspiration firms have to think about how to stay relevant to young lawyers, says Orrick���s chairman, Mitch Zuklie. ���The war for talent requires us to be more thoughtful about adapting our firms to the workplace they would find engaging,��� he says. Then there���s the small matter of clients, which are increasingly being run by the millennials. Borgal Shunk describes the combination of greater options for young lawyers, new disruptive entrants to the legal industry and boomer-heavy partnerships as a kind of perfect storm. ���All of that is compounding,��� she said. ���It���s exacerbating the generational difference.��� <strong>A��critical mass</strong> Some of the changes associated with millennials started with the Gen Xers, says Mathieu Shapiro, managing partner of Philadelphia-based Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell &amp; Hippel. He recalls the expectations he faced early in his career���that associates would go out to network with potential clients every weeknight and come in Saturdays to make up for time lost on business development. To the leaders at that time, he said, working long hours, six days a week was part of the job. But that wasn���t going to work for a generation of lawyers who were less likely than ever to have a stay-at-home spouse. Millennials seem to be taking bigger steps in the same direction. They���re an optimistic generation, Shapiro says, who want ���the best of everything.��� ���We didn���t have the critical mass,��� says Furlong, a self-proclaimed Gen Xer. And Gen X was more practical-minded than the generations before or after. ���The boomers were absolutely visionaries, and, in their own way, so are the millennials,��� Furlong says. ���They love getting stuff done, and they love getting praised for it. ��� That���s how they were raised.��� <strong>Turning law firms upside down</strong> Just as the millennials are reaching a critical mass, their law firms are reaching a critical turning point for their business models. Growth simply by grinding out the hours cannot continue indefinitely, heaping pressure on firms to change their models. At the same time that the first millennials were graduating from law school, the legal industry suffered a shake-up from which it has yet to fully recover. Post-2008, law firms continue to face challenges that started with the financial crisis. Their clients��� increased attention to legal spending did not fade as economic indicators improved. For example, fewer clients than law firms expected have demanded flat fees, contingent fees and other nontraditional billing arrangements so many law firms never moved to embrace them. But millennials won���t see that as an obstacle dodged. They���ll see it as a missed opportunity. Billable hours and long-standing partner compensation schemes are the hallmarks of traditional law firm business models that baby boomer partners are holding onto tightly to control. But those practices have held law firms back from increasing efficiency and investing profits into updating their resources. ���I���m not suggesting that I think millennials won���t want to continue to be in profitable businesses, but I think they���ll be more able and willing to take a longer-term view of how they invest,��� says consultant Susan Saltonstall Duncan, founder of RainMaking Oasis. ���Maybe they reinvest 25% of the profits every year in major initiatives required to adapt to the marketplace.��� Additionally, Duncan says, many younger lawyers are less concerned about trade secrets and may be more willing to collaborate with others in the legal industry. Having come of age with the internet and social media networks, future firm leaders may be more worried about missing out on the next revolutionary business practice. ���They���re accumulating power now. They will pretty soon assert it,��� Furlong says. ���Once they���ve got the keys to the place, they���re going to be making some pretty big renovations.��� One of the changes already underway is a shift in the amount of influence that younger lawyers are able to exert on management decisions. After all millennials were taught to speak up. And as teenagers and young adults, they were speaking up on a totally new platform���social media. Some boomers might roll their eyes at the young people attached to their phones, tweeting every thought that occurs to them. But many caution against��dismissing the ideas of a generation. A number of firms though are listening to the millennials. Zuklie, who became Orrick���s chairman and CEO in 2013, has since implemented town hall meetings with two-way feedback. The firm has also held training sessions focused on helping lawyers and staff from different generations relate to each other. A year ago, Zuklie took a step toward getting young partners directly involved in the firm���s strategy, forming the Higgins Commission. Named for a partner in New York who is leading the effort, the group of 20 junior partners, many of whom are millennials, were tasked with making recommendations for how the firm should operate in 2022. Garfinkel, of Skadden, says her firm has, for a number of years, examined how different generations, at times up to four, interact within the firm, and how management should respond to each generation���s needs. The firm recently held an innovation contest in which about 170 associates entered their ideas for how the firm could improve itself. &nbsp; <strong>Taking on leadership</strong> Even if they have been immersed in a traditional law firm atmosphere so far, millennials are more likely to make changes once they���re in charge, Duncan says. And those changes could ultimately help law firms survive disruption in the legal industry. ���If firms are really smart, they would accelerate some millennial leaders,��� she says. ���Many law firms don���t like to single out what they call future stars,��� Duncan adds. But ���if you don���t give them the opportunities, you don���t know until it���s too late whether they���re actually going to be great or not.��� And that time lost could mean losing out on a competitive edge, as millennial traits become the new mainstay in the legal industry. ���They���re here,��� Furlong concludes. ���You can be baffled by them. You can resent them. You can fight them ��� or you can figure out, ���How can we work with them?������ &nbsp; <

  • Morgan Lewis Bockius
  • Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell
  • Orrick Herrington Sutcliffe
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

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