Law Firms & the Generational Divide (Originally published July 2008)

Changes within the legal profession over the last 20 years are now posing challenges for law firms wishing to recruit and retain younger associates. While older attorneys continue to work long hours and drive business, high billable hour expectations and associate-to-partner ratios are causing younger attorneys to question the system. Compounding the problem are demographic shifts that will challenge the profitability and very sustainability of many firms in the near future. Considering the following:
  • Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, representing close to 50% of attorneys in the US, will begin to retire or change careers in record numbers over the next decade
  • The pending shortage of Generation X lawyers, a small cohort almost half the size of the Boomers, will cause significant setbacks to firms' succession plans
  • The latest generation to enter the legal profession, the Millennials, have already begun to challenge the "workaholic" legal culture by publicly ranking firms on the internet according to diversity, billable hour and pro bono participation metrics
The challenge to law firms will be to develop strategies to recruit, motivate and retain attorneys while remaining profitable. Firms that proactively navigate the generational divide today by considering the needs of a multigenerational workplace will not only achieve an overwhelming competitive advantage in the future. They will still be around to enjoy their success.

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