Millennials & Gen Z in Law: How Younger Generations are Revolutionizing Legal Practice

5 min read

Here’s what you need to know about your younger employees.

The legal industry workforce is skewing younger, as Baby Boomers retire and Millennial & Generation Z employees replace them. As this generational shift takes place, the young blood in the legal industry is bringing with it new attitudes toward technology, work, and what it means to practice law. Millennials and Gen Z are eager to change the face of work itself, and they’re doing so in surprising ways that offer law firms some unique benefits. From implementing new technologies, to bringing in a new focus on social justice and embracing flexwork, these young professionals are bringing about a major shift in corporate legal departments and law firms all across North America. Here are some of the ways that your younger team members are innovating on the practice of law.

Technology: Forward-Thinking Firms Win the Talent War

Millennials and Generation Z are arguably the most tech-savvy generations yet, and they’re bringing their passion for new and emerging technologies into the office. One 2014 Neilsen study claimed that “technology is baked into every Millennial’s DNA”; Generation Z are even more tech-aware than Millennials.

These younger workers are eager to incorporate technology into their work lives. John Shook, founding member of the Shook & Shone law firm in Nevada, told Attorney At Law Magazine in 2022 that Millennials and Generation Z “expect a collaborative work environment with quicker and more frequent feedback”; new technologies like instant messaging have cultivated these expectations with these generations. Millennials and Gen Z are bringing their passion for technology into the office, and in doing so, they’re transforming the practice of law.

That’s why the best way to recruit and retain young talent is to become a tech-savvy firm. One easy way to adopt technology in your firm is to adopt an online project management system for employees to use to track their work. Or, you could start using instant communications technologies like Slack or Microsoft Teams to communicate. You could even switch your paper record-keeping to electronic records and implement document and workflow automation software to accelerate your team’s work. Millennials and Generation Z expect their employers to be tech-savvy; implementing these sorts of technologies could be the key to recruiting younger talent and keeping them engaged and productive.

Social Justice: Making the World a Better Place

Millennials and Generation Z aren’t just interested in making a living; they want to give back to their communities. They want to make a difference. In an interview with the ABA Journal in 2018, Millennial lawyer J.P. Box said that law firms must “embrace the notion of doing well by doing good” if they want to attract young talent. It’s no longer enough to simply offer a job; law firms are now expected to find ways to do good in their communities.

Generation Z is even more community-focused than Millennials are; this generation values salary less than any other generation, according to Deloitte. Instead, Gen Z employees want to work for good global citizens.

Millennials and Gen Z are bringing their values into the workplace, and it’s beginning to show. More and more firms are investing in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, and bringing social justice into the work environment.

Some law firms may find that as their proportion of Millennial and Gen Z employees grows, so, too, does their portfolio of charity initiatives. Or, they may find that many of their younger employees actively discuss volunteering with coworkers. Firms can harness this desire for social justice to keep their employees more engaged and involved at work. Perhaps your younger employees could coordinate a volunteer day at the local food bank; or maybe your firm could host and sponsor a charity silent auction. No matter how you decide to give back, make sure your younger employees are somehow involved.

Flexwork: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

In-office work may be in its dying days; Millennial and Generation Z employees are eagerly embracing flexwork as they prioritize work-life balance above climbing the corporate ladder. While these young workers are just as motivated as older employees, they no longer see the arbitrary distinction between work and life. Younger employees will still achieve all of their objectives, but in order to do so, they need to feel that they’re working on their own terms.

That’s where embracing flexwork policies can help you keep your younger employees motivated and engaged. Millennials and Generation Z no longer see a distinction between work and life; instead of work-life balance, they speak of “work-life blend”. Giving your younger employees the option to work from home, or from a cafe, on the hours of their choosing, is a great way to boost their motivation and help them achieve better results for your firm.

One survey of Generation Z law students found that BigLaw is losing its appeal as younger lawyers and law students seek out this work-life blend. Instead of going to work at major law firms, these young attorneys are looking for jobs as in-house counsel, starting their own firms, or even at non-profits, where they can pursue work that aligns with their values and have more control over their time and environment.

Interestingly, 60% of Gen Z law students said they would trade part of their salary for a more flexible schedule. Introducing flexwork policies at your firm could be an effective way to compete for talent and retain your younger employees. With a cloud-based entity management system, for instance, you could ensure your entire firm has access to their mission-critical documents from anywhere at any time, enabling your younger employees to work the hours of their choosing from anywhere in the world.

Millennial and Gen Z employees are changing the face of law as they embrace new technologies, push for more flexible working conditions, and prioritize social justice initiatives in the workplace. These trends have been building over time, and now, the rise of the Millennial/Gen Z workforce means they are entering the mainstream. As the legal industry adjusts to Millennial and Gen Z values, flexibility and advanced technology will only become more important. Forward-thinking firms can win the talent war by adjusting to young lawyers’ values now with a proactive approach to change management.

How are your younger employees changing the way your firm operates? What benefits have you seen from adopting new technologies, enacting flexwork policies, or embracing social justice initiatives?

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