The term “Millennial” can be cringe-inducing in law firms across the United States. Trying to motivate young attorneys can be frustrating while dealing with their job-hopping tendencies.

There is a way, however, to be successful with a committed group of Millennials (aged 21 to 36 years old).  If your firm embraces a Millennial-friendly culture, you’ll have much more success retaining top-level associates and improve productivity along the way.

According to a 2010 Pew Research Center analysis, only 15 percent of Millennials consider a high-paying career to be one of the most important things in their lives. Similarly, a 2014 Clark University Poll found that 78 percent of young people believe “it is more important to enjoy their work than to make a lot of money.”  To sum it up, Millennials are looking for connection, meaning, and fulfillment in their careers.

Law firms obviously must pay competitive salaries to young associates, but that alone will not keep them around long term. This isn’t bad news for law firms though.  Right off the bat, you have a group of young, eager lawyers who want nothing more than to contribute to your firm in a meaningful way.  Millennials will represent almost half of the U.S. workforce by 2020, so law firms need to begin to understand their mindset.

  • Millennials embrace the work-life blend.  They view work as an enhancement of their life, not just something they have to do for a paycheck.
  • Millennials enjoyed peer-like relationships with the authority figures in their early life and therefore they don’t come to the workplace with a strong notion of hierarchy.  Law firms would be wise to focus on each person’s role on a case, rather than job titles.
  • Use creativity to challenge your associates and celebrate teamwork. Millennials are a collaborative bunch who work best as a group.

According to Thomson West, law firms spend a billion dollars each year to recruit, train, and develop young attorneys.  Understanding how to connect with and inspire young attorneys will help to make a good return on that investment.

So, before jumping to the conclusion that Millennials “don’t want to work hard” or “won’t pay their dues”, know that the solution may be simply learning to understand what makes this young generation tick.