The future of law firms depends, whether you like it or not, on Millennials. The lawyers in your firm born after 1982 tend to have a unique vision of a professionally rewarding workplace that law firms need to appreciate in order to retain talent. And should your traditional firm be working under the illusion that the young hires will learn to behave, think again. Research shows that they’ll just walk.

A study by Deloitte conducted earlier this year shows that 46% of Australian Millennials expect to change employer within the next 2 years. Of those, 69% cited the lack of training for leadership as their reason, showing that a paycheque alone does not buy loyalty. Only 19% of Millennials said that they expect to stay in their current job for more than 5 years. Unlike previous generations that may have endured long hours for long years in the hope of promotion, Millennials prefer to shop their credentials around on an ongoing basis to advance career and to find the employment that best aligns with their personal values. Given that 75% of the global workforce will be comprised of Millennials by 2025, law firms need to pay attention to the Millennials take on an appealing workplace.

So what is a staid firm to do? Change, of course.

Consider the top 4 reasons, other than income, that Millennials cited for working at an organisation:

  1. Good lifework balance
  2. Opportunity to progress
  3. Flexible working; flexible hours, possible to work remotely
  4. Deriving a sense of meaning from work

and the bottom 4 reasons for choosing an organisation:

  1. A leading company that people admire
  2. Fast growing/dynamic
  3. Invests in and uses the latest technology
  4. The reputation of its leaders/senior executives

So an admired, cutting-edge, growing organisation with good leadership may well be rejected by Millennials if it is too rigid, too demanding, and fails to nurture. Law firms should be worried.

Are Millennials really expecting too much to be treated as more than billable hour units? Millennial’s demands won’t end legal practice, but might end some of its worst aspects. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Talk to them. Millennials are the most tech-savvy, socially connected members of the firm and might just have some truly constructive thoughts on digital marketing or other innovations. They may also have a few opinions on how to make their job more meaningful and rewarding.
  • Institute a policy that allows lawyers to freely work from home from time to time or to alter their hours so they can meet family obligations.
  • Institute mentoring sessions by more senior lawyers and by other staff.
  • Create teams that provide a friendly support network rather than isolating young lawyers to slog through assignments alone.

None of this is pampering. It’s good business. In the digital age, a flexible, innovative, and supportive firm will quickly be recognised by Millennials. And then, they might just stick around.