By Susan Smith Blakely • March 05, 2020•Careers, Firms and the Private Sector
I have written and spoken a lot about what millennial lawyers need. And, as many of you know, my book, What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2018), explores the subject at length.
Even with that book and the many speaking engagements that followed its popularity, I am grateful each time I see another writer tackle the issue. The experiences of young lawyers and the future of the law profession are big issues and causes for concern, so I welcome other ideas and approaches.
And once in awhile, I see an article that I wish had been written by me --- something that is thoughtful, well-written and moves the marker forward. Here is one such article.
This article, by Debra Pickett, a communications specialist and consultant to law firms, was published recently in the National Law Review. In it, Ms. Pickett addresses law firm leadership and what next generation recruits need to hear from them. She recognizes, as do I, that law firms must adapt in significant ways to "recruit, motivate and retain" millennial lawyers and at the same time keep the confidence of firm clients.
The article includes common sense recommendations for talking effectively about what is needed by this new generation of lawyers and how to deliver on those needs. The three messages are important and simple:
We have a plan to make our firm more diverse and inclusive. The key to the success of this message is to distinguish past unimpressive and unsuccessful efforts on diversity from the new more thoughtful action plan. That plan needs to include dedicating PR support to help build professional profiles and develop business, addressing pay equity and the need for change, providing networking training, and equalizing access and opportunity when staffing cases and matters to assure that work is distributed fairly and that high-profile work is widely available;
We want you to have a life outside work. Flexible scheduling is very important to young lawyers, and the firm must demonstrate sincerity and commitment about the importance of parental leave, which includes leave for both male and female lawyers. Because long hours at the office and lack of balance between personal and professional lives can lead to mental health issues, firms also must develop programs to address and combat depression, substance abuse and suicide among lawyers; and
We want you to succeed. Fairness is very important to the cohort that is millennial lawyers. They value collaboration and fairness over internal competition, and firms have to assure them that transparency is the new methodology by making billable hour expectations realistic and worthy of trust and improving mentorship and sponsorship programs, including the recognition that those programs involve law firm advocacy for young lawyers.
These efforts are not insignificant. But, taking these messages seriously and following through with action plans will result in win-wins for law firms and put them in positions to attract the top of the crop of new generation lawyers. It also will put law firms on the road to recapturing the values of Greatest Generation lawyers who built our profession.
For more about those Greatest Generation lawyers, read my book, What Millennial Lawyers Want. It is all there, including the lessons I learned from my father about being a good and ethical lawyer.
And, yes, I do wish I had written the article! Read it, and you will understand why.
Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law. She is author of Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another. Her third book in the series, Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, focuses on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and was released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.
Ms. Blakely’s new book for ALL young lawyers, What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, will be released by Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers in the summer of 2018.
Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including Corporate Counsel Magazine, the ABA Journal, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, Women Lawyers Journal (NAWL), DC Spotlight, Lawyerist.com, Daily Muse, Lawyer and Statesman, Law.com, Georgetown Law Magazine, Legal Toolkit Podcast, and Huffington Post Business. Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues in business and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division. She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" and the Lawyer Monthly “Women in Law Award 2016” for her work on behalf of women in the law.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and is certified as a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy. For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com.