May 16, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

A lot has been said about the 73 million-strong millennial generation’s potential to change the world. Not only are millennials known for being uniquely invigorated for the causes and social issues they support, but they’re also ready, willing and able to use non-traditional methods to effect change. Retail, travel, real estate, finance, healthcare and fitness are a few of the industries that come to mind when we think of the millennial impact. Also evolving in response to millennial wants and needs? Law.

Read on for a roundup of four ways the legal profession is changing in the millennial world.

1. Law school curricula are changing.

A recent Forbes report highlighted a trend among millennials to eschew the law profession. Their reasons for pursuing other careers? “Studies have shown that individuals in this age group have different expectations and aspirations for their future. They tend to value flexibility and work-life balance, and they seek work aligned with their personal ethics,” AccessLex CEO Christopher Chapman told Forbes.

Of course, law schools aren’t going to kick back and watch their enrollments decline. Nor are law firms eager to stand by as the generation’s best and brightest talent pursue other careers. Rather, they’re adopting to appeal to the new generation. According to Litera Microsystems, law schools are making a number of changes to their curricula aimed at appealing to millennials, including by offering more experiential learning opportunities, embracing legal technology, and focusing on the ways in which a legal education is meaningful because of its ability to help people.

Proposes Litera Microsystems, “Make no mistake: learning how to think critically and analytically about legal issues is still at the heart of any law school’s curriculum, but we’re excited to see how this updated approach to legal education will turn out a new generation of hands-on, technologically savvy, purpose-driven lawyers.”

2. Performance reviews are getting an overhaul.

Biglaw firm performance reviews are notoriously ineffective due to the gap between feedback and employment decisions. Now comes news that firms are rolling out new programs designed to provide associates with more immediate “flash feedback” aimed not at addressing compensation, but instead at growth, development and fit.

Says Hogan Lovells CEO Stephen Immelt, “You find in the law firm setting that people have very high expectations, very demanding, but there’s not only a reluctance at times to give constructive feedback but also a reluctance to give positive feedback. So by trying to change that rhythm...it’s just another way we as a firm are trying to adapt to a modern workplace with a modern group of associates who have different expectations than I had many years ago when I was a young associate.”

3. Diversity is skyrocketing.

The millennial generation is not only larger than its predecessors, but it’s also the most diverse generation in US history. Because of this, contends Forbes contributor Anna Johansson, “Millennials see diversity and inclusion differently than other generations, and are making a pronounced effort to include more diversity in their workplaces—especially in industries that need diversity the most, or ones that have not kept up with cultural demand.”

Diversity in the legal profession has long been lacking, but change is very much underway. Hopkins & Carley associate Marie Gribble tells Law Practice Today, “The dynamics and makeup of both law firms and the clients they serve are changing. We are seeing a lot more diversity in the clients we serve, and law firms are becoming more reflective of that with practitioners of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and genders.”

4. The focus is shifting from facetime to flexibility.

The billable hour has long reigned supreme in big law, and yet this concept is disagreeable to many millennials for one simple reason: “The feel that time keeping and productivity should be separated,” says LawFuel. Factor in the high value millennials place on work-life balance, and the billable hour becomes incongruent with millennial workers -- particularly when they know they can be just as -- if not more -- productive under different terms.

Adds David Lat for Above the Law, “As clients, millennials rebel against the rigidity of the billable hour. As colleagues, millennials place lower value on facetime, embracing the use of technology to work where and when they please.”

But just because the law sector is changing to accommodate millennials doesn’t mean millennials can’t meet it halfway. If you’re pursuing a law career, make sure to check out The Legal Intelligence’s guide to transitioning from law student to legal practitioner.

 

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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