Legal leaders – what management strategies work best for Millennial talent?

The legal landscape is complex – not just from an operational perspective, but also with a focus on key talent available. As the number of law graduates increases on a yearly basis, so too does the required shift in management style to get the most out of newer recruits.


The term ‘Millennial’ is often thrown meaninglessly. In actuality, it refers to those born between 1980 and 2000, split by the terms ‘Generation Y’, those born in the former half, and ‘Generation X’ – those born in the latter.


The average age for a Partner in a legal firm currently sits at 52 years old, with just two per cent of this upper echelon made up of Millennials. As such, the legal profession is required to meet a new challenge – identifying effective management strategies directly aimed at this age bracket to ensure long term viability. The question that must be answered, therefore, is one of management styles. How can Millennial talent be managed in a way that optimises business impact?


Traditional strategies – no longer sufficient?

With the average retirement age continually pushed back, we often see four generations working within the same talent-pool. Traditional leadership strategies, particularly within law firms, are often tailored to the Baby Boomer/Buster generation – quite simply, this is because these staff have been there longer, and these strategies have worked. These generations are understood to thrive in a competition-rich, results-oriented environment, and as such, this is the landscape we see represented in business.


Inevitably, as the workforce demographic shifts, we see a requirement to adjust management strategies. Contrary to their predecessors, Millennial workers often require flexible hours and a work-life balance in return for their loyalty and effectiveness, necessitating not just an adjustment of current practices, but often an entirely new perspective to ensure business success.


Attracting and retaining Millennial talent

A recent study noted that Millennial talent tends to be “more independent, self-sufficient and self-motivated.” Further, such talent is accepted as being highly technologically literate, resulting in a workplace, which can often be decentralised – operating from different locations using business communications tools.


Often, Millennial talent expects a challenging role, ownership over their responsibilities, greater levels of education on the job, and speedy promotion. Job hopping is becoming a regular occurrence in business, often as a result of these requirements not being met – research published in Forbes magazine has noted that 45% of employees plan to stay with their employer for less than two years.


Any management strategy designed to directly target Millennials, therefore, must take root in this sense of flexibility – offering up new projects to boost skillsets. Often, this combination of Generation X and Y are not loyal to specific employers. Instead, they are loyal to their careers – their own personal sense of progression.


Further than managing, Millennial talent must be taken on a journey – one where they are not only upskilled and valued, but where they operate collaboratively with their place of employment. If the goals of employer and employee are aligned, loyalty is the logical conclusion.


It is estimated that by 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. To succeed, legal professionals must redevelop management styles to match this redistribution of talent, from providing learning and development opportunities, to strengthening company culture and customising employment packages. The requirements to meet this new challenge are far different to those needed previously.


Millennial talent is not the future of the workforce – it is the present. For any law leader looking to ensure the long-term stability of their business, adapting to these new requirements are essential.


There is, quite simply, a gap in effectiveness between the management styles that have worked in the past, and the requirements of newer, younger employees. The response to these requirements that are not currently being met will inevitably be a lack of worker effectiveness the result.