Law firms, like lots of other employers, are trying to figure out how to deal with Millennials. Admittedly, that’s not surprising because understanding between generations isn’t easy. How will a generation that is stigmatized by stereotypes, like being lazy and not buying houses because of our student loans, affect workplace culture, especially the demanding environment of a law firm?
Initially, the time of new workers wanting to establish themselves in a company or firm might be going to way of compact disks. Last year, Forbes reported that 72% of Millennials wanted to be their own boss and that 88% wanted to collaborate instead of compete. The times of not sharing your law outlines and begrudgingly celebrating your colleague’s new client are coming to an end. But, while this may seem like a stark variation to the law industry, it is also important to know the zeitgeist instead of ignoring it.
Some law firms are working with the notion that Millennial lawyers want to be who they want to be by changing some of the rules of the firm. O’Melveny Myers LLP, which employs around 800 lawyers worldwide, has created a work schedule planning system that allows the lawyers to tailor their own schedules and allows for greater time at home. The firm even allows attorneys to take a two year sabbatical, so that attorneys can “explore other interests” but return after their sabbatical is over. The firm is focusing on making their employees happy, which may go a long way in creating a more motivated employee.
The WSJ reported that some other businesses, like Facebook, pay their employees a subsidy in order to live near the office. The rationale is that the less time you spend commuting, the more time you spend at work and at home. That same article reported a study showing that “workers with commutes below 5 miles remain at their jobs 20% longer on average.” The idea clearly is that if businesses work towards creating a better environment for their employees, then their employees should respond with greater work commitment.
Now, a two year sabbatical and a housing subsidy is not the expectation of law firm employers. That would be nice, but not in this generation of firm shareholders. What Millennials want is to have work life balance and we feel it’s more important now than ever before. One thing Millennials don’t want is to make this a controlling issue, pitting each Boomer or Generation-X against Millennials. Like anybody else, Millennials are attempting to eliminate the biggest stresses in their lives in order to become a better person. That being said, trying to accommodate for some of those stresses at work could help create a better working environment for the employer and employee. A good start would be creating a communicative workspace between senior and associate lawyers in a firm, or managers in a company, which could allow for development of the understanding needed to help create a better working environment.