It’s traditionally acknowledged that the legal industry can be a bit conservative when it comes to technological adoption. A few other stereotypes might be that law firms aren’t much fun and aren’t great for work life balance. Of course, not all law firms are the same, but if any or all of these things ring true for your firm, it could be a huge problem for firms looking to hire the best legal technology talent, especially the youngest generation in the workforce. Luckily, there are a few simple modifications you can make (and one complicated one) that could significantly increase your ability to attract and retain millennials (or Gen Y) for your law firm’s IT department.
Tip #1: Adoption of Latest Technologies
One thing that truly sets this youngest generation of workforce professionals apart is their fluency in technology. The technological revolution and social media have had significant impacts on Gen Y and as a result their expectations are set high when it comes to technological adoption in the workplace.
This can cause a number of problems for law firms. First, all millennial employees have high technology expectations, from attorneys, to paralegals, to the technology professionals themselves. Legal technology departments need to be able to provide great technology solutions for their entire firm. Second, millennial technology professionals are always looking to work in the latest, most exciting technologies, from both a technical language and methodology perspective. To attract these millennial legal IT employees—and retain them—law firms should be looking for ways to start to adopt new technologies more quickly.
Admittedly, this is complicated, and for large law firms in particular, it could take quite a bit of time and effort to implement a large-scale change to agile methodology, or the latest coding language. However, if you’re able to make some changes and speed up your tech-adoption, it could go along way toward attracting, and even more importantly, keeping millennials on your IT team.
One great way to do this is to tap into the millennials you already have on your team. Ask them which tools and technologies they’d like to work with, and go ahead and make them a project leader when it comes time to research and implement. They’ll appreciate the trust you’ve put in them and the extra responsibility you’ve given them. Which leads us to Tip #2.
Tip #2: Mentorship and Advancement
One of the biggest drivers for Gen Y is the ability to contribute to an organization. They want to get better and have more and more impact as time goes along. Throughout their upbringing, millennials have been trained to expect personalized feedback about their work, and most of them truly want this feedback to improve, not just to get a pat on the back. That doesn’t mean they want to be micro-managed, but they do want to be mentored and coached. However, mentors and managers need to be aware that for them, that means talking about goals and objectives, rather than how something has been or should be done.
A large majority of millennials desire to be leaders, but according to a Deloitte Survey of 7,700 millennials, 64% feel these skills are not being developed and only 28% of millennials feel their skills are being fully utilized. These stats demonstrate the vast opportunity legal tech departments have to tap into the talent they already have and to build loyalty to the law firm. In addition, “they are more likely to report high levels of satisfaction where there is a creative, inclusive working culture (76%) rather than a more authoritarian, rules-based approach (49%).”
By providing your legal tech professionals with tangible feedback, training, appreciation, and career-advancement opportunities, you’ll give your law firm the best chance possible of retaining these up-and-coming technology professionals. To attract them in the first place, make sure to take them through the career path opportunities you have available at your law firm, and layout how people have been successful moving up in the past. You may also want to highlight your law firm’s management philosophy and review processes.
Tip #3: Work-life Balance & Flexibility
This generation grew up with (mostly) both parents working. While many millennials acknowledge the opportunities this provided them, it also created negative feelings about the lack of work-life balance their parents seemed to have. In other words, flexibility is very important to millennials. Whether that means spending more time with their families, or with friends, it’s a high priority for Gen Y to have work-life balance in their lives.
This doesn’t mean they don’t want to work hard, but they do want flexibility to work whenever and wherever is most convenient for them. According to the Deloitte Survey, 88% of millennials wish they could have more flexibility to start and finish their work days at times they choose. 77% wish to have greater mobile connectivity and 75% would like to be able to start working, or more frequently work, from home or other locations they feel more productive. This could in part be in response to recent backlash over open work spaces and the difficulties they cause for productivity, but it also likely has a lot to do with the work styles they become accustomed to during college working on their laptops anywhere they liked.
It isn’t too hard to put accountabilities in place so that you can provide them with the convenience of telecommuting and you might be surprised at the extra commitment to the firm that this flexibility generates. While law firms do have some extra information security concerns to be cognizant of when allowing for this flexibility, for your attorneys and legal tech pros alike, a little goes a long way when it comes to work-life balance.
Tip #4: Shared Values
For Gen Y, work is about much more than getting a paycheck. According to Deloitte, “Millennials want to contribute to the positive impact they believe businesses have on society, but in doing so, they wish to stay true to their personal values.” If you haven’t done so already, find out what your millennials value and if possible, incorporate them into your company culture. Then promote these values when you interview millennials and give them an opportunity to say, “I care about that too!”
Providing opportunities for tech pros to give back has proven a great selling point for many companies. This might take the form of “hackathons” or pro-bono work your tech team can be a part of. You could allow for a set number of volunteer hours a year your employees can partake in during work hours that don’t cost against their PTO, or arrange for all-company (or department) volunteer events. Knowing that a company gives back to their community and encourages their employees to do the same is very attractive to the millennial generation.
Meaningful work is also important to Gen Y, and while they understand the necessity of profit and a firm’s financial stability, they most often look for firms that put people, especially their employees, first. Legal tech pros want to work for law firms with a mission they can get behind, and it usually isn’t about sales. When millennial employees are aligned to your law firm’s values, they are much more likely to join and stay loyal to your firm.
The latest college graduates will be filtering into the job market this summer, but Gen Y already make up over 60% of the workforce. While the 90s born and 80s born millennials have quite a few distinctions between them, very few millennials of either kind prefer to be labeled as such, mostly because of the prevailing attitudes from older generations that millennials are lazy, disloyal, and entitled. Those labels may fit for some millennials, but many studies suggest that it is no truer of this generation of 20 and 30-somethings, than it was of their predecessors. In other words, all young professionals have room to grow when it comes to entering the workforce, no matter what generation they are a part of.
As millennials have matured, and become parents and leaders within law firms, some of their values have changed. However, much of what they’ve become known for still rings true: they seek work/life balance, professional advancement, development, and recognition, and want to work for organizations that share their own personal values.
At your fingertips, most law firms have millennials who have grown up with technology impacting their day-to-day life. Now too, many law firms have millennials in leadership roles, and as their clients, which comes with expectations for more technology-assisted processes. If you’re still ignoring millennials or griping about how they are “lazy and entitled”, it’s time for a change. It’s time to discover how you can make the most of your Gen Y technology employees and find success for many years to come.
Are you looking to add more millennials to your tech team, or want more advice on how to make your firm more attractive to them?