Millennials and the law – How to retain a millennial workforce

Following the economic downturn in 2008 and the recession that followed, the legal sector was hit hard with limited career progression prospects, pay reductions and even redundancies. Fortunately as we enter 2017 we are in a far better position, with the legal sector proving to be buoyant and showing no indication of slowing down. Subsequently, law firms are now able to expand successful teams with new permanent and temporary positions becoming available at various levels. As the number of roles increase the demand for exemplary candidates is also on the rise.

Reports have suggested that by 2020 as much as 50 percent of the global workforce will be made up of ‘millennials’ or generation Y workers. As a result, law firms must adopt strategies and put policies in place to ensure they continue to attract and retain the highest quality candidates.

Providing a good work/life balance

Times are beginning to change and the rise in popularity of remote working means the long hours traditionally associated with a legal career are becoming easier to avoid. As such, candidates are more likely to seek employment from firms that can offer them a greater degree of flexibility. Flexible working is generally favoured by millennials, therefore employers should offer clear and appropriate flexible working policies in order to attract and retain the best candidates.

Offering competitive incentives and benefits

To attract the highest quality candidates it is also important to ensure that salaries on offer are in line with the current market rate, and that firms offer additional incentives and benefits. For example, millennial workers generally respond well to financial incentives and if a firm or legal department has an attractive bonus scheme it can often make all the difference when choosing between job offers. 

Keeping up with technology

Technology within the legal sector has had a substantial impact in recent years, but many legal firms and departments are still falling behind. Whilst it is rare to have a ‘paperless office’ even within highly traditional law firms, to attract younger workers it is important to keep up-to-date with the latest technology available. 

Feedback and mentor programmes

Employers must also provide employees with feedback, including constructive criticism. If this is not offered how are employees able to take on board comments and improve? A good way to ensure employees feel as though they can develop themselves and progress within a company is to use mentor programmes.

Additionally, the legal sector needs to ensure relevant training and support is available, as well as a clear career progression route. When an employee feels valued and important, they are more likely to stay loyal to the company. An efficient way to do this is through in-house mentor programmes, giving employees the opportunity to learn and progress and as a result retention levels and productivity will increase.

Succession planning at all levels

Law firms will be well versed in the process and the importance of succession planning for more senior level candidates. Whilst the points above will help to secure talent for longer, millennials will still be less inclined to stay with a firm ‘for life’ when compared to the generations before them, meaning organisations will need to work harder, and work smarter to keep them on board.

The millennial workforce are particularly keen to explore working in different environments and to gain a more diverse range of experience, and my advice would be to offer them this within the same organisation. Offering new generations of legal professionals the opportunity to progress and gain valuable experience under one roof will be beneficial in the long-term, otherwise legal firms may face a much higher turnover of staff.

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Mark Bailey, Manager, Sellick Partnership Leeds Division

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