Mind your millennials by Simon Harper, LOD
This article was originally featured as an opinion in the December 2017 issue of Briefing. To read the issue in full, download Briefing.
As we head toward the 2020s, we are in a transition between generations of legal leadership – the boomers giving way to the millennials. This means a huge shift in attitudes about how law is purchased and provided. The millennial lawyer is now the emerging law firm partner or GC, accustomed to working in a digitally open world, where personalisation and transparency are the norm.
In May 2017, we released our fourth report, authored by the legal market analyst Jordan Furlong. In keeping with other LOD-commissioned reports, 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 have begun to drive an irreversible shift for the profession. 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 this transformation already, as our clients demand change, their buying power increases and the market generally becomes more sophisticated. Millennial lawyers are driving this change. So, what difference are these millennial lawyers making as they rise through the legal hierarchy? Here are some of the issues outlined in the report:
• 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’s no doubt millennial clients dislike time-based billing. Desire for flat fee structures and other flexible pricing will result in the billable hour being an exception rather than the rule. This will also put pressure on 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 other legal providers will be required to deliver this, as quickly as possible, while allowing the client to have as much control over the project as possible. 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’re based, and set targets for gender and racial representation, especially in leadership positions. Millennials will lead the in-house teams and law firms of tomorrow. However, it is also important to understand the issues that this change is currently encountering.
The millennial generation is already showing itself a real accelerator – not only as lawyers wanting to work differently, but also as clients, buying differently. These attitudes are bringing a new era for 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, but it does not make them wrong. But Jordan firmly believes that what’s needed is to “get your people talking and working across the generational divides. “Boomers and millennials actually have a lot in common, especially an interest in how best to serve clients. There’s no better place than that to start the conversation.”