Another characteristic can now be added to the list of many traits attributed to millennials: job hopping.
In a recent article on this subject for the ABA Journal, Debra Cassens Weiss cites a recent survey in which almost 40 percent of the millennials in the survey acknowledged that they would probably stay in their current job for less than five years.
Why are millennials more prone to job hopping than their older peers? It’s a great question, and it’s a question that many managing partners are asking themselves.
Consequences of job hopping
It’s very expensive to lose a lawyer because firms must put in a lot of time and training to teach young lawyers the craft in general, how to solicit new clients, and how to appeal to the needs of the clients in a way that gives them confidence in the lawyer and in the firm.
Solutions to job hopping
I knew a managing partner of a larger firm who felt that the firm couldn’t grow unless it could attract younger lawyers. He knew he couldn’t be a managing partner forever and grew frustrated because he couldn’t assure himself that he wasn’t going to lose a good, talented person.
What senior lawyers are finding is that the best way to keep a person employed at a firm is to offer them something that they can’t get elsewhere.
One thing that particularly interests young people is the ability to make a difference. I was at a meeting at which a managing partner was presiding, and a junior partner asked how he could become more influential in the firm.
The response was, “Don’t worry. Just keep your nose to the grindstone to build clients, and after time it will happen.” That was not a satisfactory response to the junior lawyer. It was like saying to a married person, “Stay married, and after 50 years you’ll get a gold ring.”
If a firm won’t provide a satisfying environment for a young lawyer, that lawyer has many alternative avenues in which to go out and produce quality work, even if not at the same level of income.
To keep a young person from job hopping, firms should bring young people onto management committees, offer opportunities for teamwork, and ask them to help bring in new clients.
In addition, firms should offer good medical care, which will be important to young people who are raising children, educational opportunities and time off for a work-life balance. Of course, offering a greater percentage of profitability is enticing, too.
Furthermore, if a firm has hired someone particularly talented, it should employ mentoring and coaching to retain that talent.
Finally, a “put your money where your mouth is” type of solution to the problem occurred at one New York-based firm. It enticed senior partners to leave the firm with a stipend averaging 50 percent of the last five years of compensation, opening up space for the younger lawyers.
Job hopping of millennials addresses the needs of young people for a different lifestyle and work ethic. Technology advances in law practice and moving away from “billable hours” also will have an impact in the future.
It might seem tempting to avoid hiring lawyers fresh out of law school, but that would be a mistake. These young people want to learn and advance and will put in long hours to do so. Firms simply need to be sensitive to their wants and needs in order to reduce the turnover.
Edward Poll is the principal of LawBiz Management. He coaches lawyers and is the creator of “Life After Law,” a program that helps attorneys plan for profitable exits.