Rabia Elif Aksoy
The millennials are now calling the shots and older generations at law firms are being forced to listen, says Simon Harper.
We recently released our fourth report on changes in the market authored by leading legal commentator, Jordan Furlong. We asked him to look at a major disruptive force in the legal sector. The resulting report, The Rise of the Millennial Lawyer, centres on how millennials are driving a seismic shift in the profession. We are reaching a point where millennial lawyers begin to outnumber the baby boomer generation in the workforce and to take major leadership positions.
Changing the rules
The full Jordan report looked at 14 ways in which this generation is changing the rules. As Jordan points out in the report, “The market is changing from a dormant, low-tech, individualistic system to a dynamic, high-tech and collaborative one.” At LOD, we are seeing the transformation already as our clients’ demands change, their buying power increases and the market generally becomes more sophisticated. Millennial lawyers are driving this change.
So,what difference is this millennial lawyer really making? The following were some of the key issues identified.
Choice: Millennials demand choice in all aspects of their lives, so why not in buying legal services? Loyalty to a single firm is rare already with clients far more willing to explore alternative legal services offerings.
Pricing: There is no doubt that millennial clients dislike time-based billing. Their desire for flat fee structures and other flexible pricing models will result in the billable hour being the exception, rather than the rule. This will also put pressure on law firms to provide value and certainty as GCs increasingly use analytics to measure cost and productivity.
Multidisciplinary: As deals and businesses become more complex, legal teams will increasingly need to include non-legal specialists as integral members of their teams to achieve the best results. Millennial-led law firms will increasingly become multidisciplinary or strategically aligned with other specialists.
Customisation: One size does not fit all.The millennial client wants solutions tailored to their exact needs and interests. Law firms and legal providers will be required to deliver this, as quickly as possible, whilst allowing the client to have control over the project. Millennial clients want to be treated like a partner, not just a purchaser.
Diverse: Millennials take diversity issues seriously. They want to make the world a better place and they expect their service providers to join them on this mission. Firms will be expected to reflect the cities and communities where they are based, and set targets for gender and racial representation, especially in leadership positions.
We are already seeing that millennials will lead the in-house teams and law firms of tomorrow. However, it is also important to understand that this will not necessarily be a smooth and simple transition. Jordan recently commented that “firms are trying hard to engage their associates and junior partners in the larger affairs of the firm, to connect and coax them into leadership and business development roles, but with only limited success.”
Some of this is rooted in real differences in personalities and priorities across generations. However, there is a way to work around these issues. There are now encouraging examples of firms who are working to build multi-generational teams, which can also provide informal mentoring and communication opportunities.
Accelerator of change
The millennial generation is already showing itself as the real accelerator of change. Not just as lawyers wanting to work differently, but crucially as clients too, buying differently. Attitudes that are bringing a new era to the legal market. Understanding this is crucial for law firms to survive and thrive. Millennials tend to resist traditional pathways to power and to keep the firm at arm’s length. That makes them different from most senior partners however, it does not make them wrong. Jordan firmly believes that firms need to, “get your people talking and working across their generational divides. Boomers and Millennials actually have a lot in common, especially an interest in serving clients. There’s no better place than that to start the conversation.”
Simon Harper is co-founder of LOD.