Last week saw Vault.com release its 2017 survey of the best law firms to work for and O’Melveny and Myers is the new reigning champion. Among quality of life factors that matter to many of today’s associates, the firm scored first in satisfaction and honors, and placed second in firm culture, leadership transparency and substantive work categories.
The importance of quality of life to Millennial attorneys also was touched on in Law360’s 3 Factors That Make Law Firms So Toxic. The article, written by Kathryn Rubino, noted that “toxic” firms tend to perform poorly in providing consistent feedback, displaying an atmosphere of personal and professional growth and operating transparently.
Today’s law firm leaders don’t need to read about Vault.com’s quality of life rankings or study Ms. Rubino’s writings about toxicity to know that in the age of the Millennial a law firm’s appeal to young attorneys is different from years past. Recruiting and retention of good quality associates today requires attending to their “new age” interests and preferences for career development.
Meeting the Millennial challenge also goes to the heart of law firm succession. While there is no denying that a law firm’s succession plan must satisfy the Generation X talent that is next in line, looking beyond Generation X to a firm’s Millennial associates and young partners is critical. If Millennia’s are not fully a part of a firm’s succession plan, it likely will be nothing more than a delaying action to an ultimate firm surrender. This can be avoided if Millennia’s believe:
In the Process. Telling Millennia to do something without explaining how the task fits into the bigger picture is a mistake. They crave understanding the process and being part of the process. A firm that engages young attorneys in the succession secures for itself a solid foundation for the future. Keeping young excited about their future at the firm is vital.
That Success and Work-life Balance are Compatible. A firm that currently displays sensitivity to achieving a work-life balance will be popular, certainly for the short-term. If that same firm demonstrates that its long-term plans beyond the Generation X attorneys will allow the next generation of owners to enjoy financial and professional success without sacrificing a life outside of work, succession prospects long-term will be enhanced.
Their Team Has Good Coaches. More than ever today’s young lawyers want to learn their craft, but don’t want to learn in isolation. They value being mentored, receiving clearly articulated feedback and being coached in a way that focuses on professional development. A team approach in collaborative projects is also valued because it is consistent with prior learning experiences. So the firm that is committed to a collaborative and interactive culture both short-term and long-term furthers its succession goals.
A Square Hole Can Fit a Round Peg. Despite their desire to enjoy a work-life balance, Millennia’s entrepreneurial tendencies look for better ways of doing things. A law firm that stifles creativity “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is not going to appeal to the newest generation of lawyers. If a law firm’s future encourages its attorneys to think of new and better ways of doing things, it not only will project opportunity but it also differentiates itself from much of the pack. For a workforce with a “startup” mentality, a firm open to a sound transformation can create excitement that yields long-term dividends.
The Older Generations Can Adapt. It takes two to Tango, so for succession to appeal to the Millennial generation senior leaders and lawyers must show their buy-in as the succession plan takes its course. If senior members of the firm only pay lip service to a Millennia attentive plan the best of the Millennia’s may be gone long before the day of succession arrives. Not only must the senior attorneys be willing to adapt, but also they must demonstrate a willingness to do so on a real-time basis.
Law firm succession planning that fails to think deeply about the Millennia’s role in the firm’s future misses a vitally important component that cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, a Millennia lite succession plan could prove to be a law firm’s Achilles heel. Does your succession plan protect against such a point of weakness?