Canadian Lawyer

December/January 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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22 www.canadianlawyermag.com SPECIAL REPORT LEGAL WORKPLACES work at a firm that you can grow with." According to data Haji collected as part of his law/MBA thesis on millennials' departure from private practice, he notes that law firms "need to adapt" to their younger-generation employees. Tellingly, millennial lawyers at law firms disagreed or strongly disagreed with the following statements: • A traditional law firm is the ideal work environment for millennials; • The reward structure at traditional law firms motivates millennials and is enough to keep them motivated throughout their careers; and • A millennial lawyer can find meaning and remain happy throughout a career at a large law firm. However, Haji wants to be clear that his data doesn't show that millennials, contrary to some portrayals, don't want to work. "I think it's quite the opposite. I think millennial lawyers do want to work. They just want the context of that work to be more meaningful and that the meaning be more than simply its monetary value." Sameera Sereda, managing partner at recruiting firm The Counsel Network, says there are three main factors in a workplace environment for which lawyers are looking. to "enforce an expectation of collaboration and consultation in decision-making to take advantage of all lawyers' unique skillsets, rather than concentrating power and decision-making in the hands of a few." She went on to say that "measurable metrics" should be developed for valuing non-billable contributions, recognizing that it is important to have "connectors" and "builders" as well as fee earners to provide the best services to clients. Our survey also pointed out some clear differences depending on age. Lawyers under 29 ranked their firms highly on reputation, strong management, competitive salary and professional development; those over 61 rated their firms highly on team culture, support staff and technology, autonomy on choosing clients and bonus opportunities. And lawyers in mid-career gave positive marks to their firms for things such as mentorship, flexible hours and the ability to work from home and reasonable billable hours. The survey also pointed to a gender divide — women ranked their firms lower on factors such as salary, professional development, bonus opportunities and the fair distribution of case files. As a millennial, Haji says he is looking for "personal growth" at the firm. "It's not just about billing a bunch of hours, it's not just about making money, it's about being able to The first is the firm's platform. "Is the platform going to help me move my career forward? Am I going to build my client base? Am I going to have access to a certain file or certain level of mentor?" The second factor, she says, and one that is becoming increasingly important, is whether the firm and its platform are progressive. "Are there progressive policies that include equity and diversity? Is the firm moving with the changing times?" And the third factor, related to the second, is whether the firm is innovative. "By that I mean does this firm have the ability to move my career but not in a traditional way of going from associate to partner? And, if it does, is it a path that will allow me to do meaningful legal work?" Haji takes the need to rejig the traditional partnership model a bit further. He calls it a "deferred gratification model where you put in a crazy amount of hours on the front end, hoping that, at the back end, you will become a partner and get to be part of profit sharing." For some lawyers, that isn't the path they want to pursue, he says. "Law firms have built their culture around this whole partnership model with monetary satisfaction as the end game, as opposed to looking at ways to improve benefits like workplace quality, work-life balance and getting strong mentorship and feedback." Haji's research shows that millennial motivation for working at large law firms usually comes down to two factors. The first is compensation, allowing young lawyers to quickly pay off their student debt. The second is gaining valuable practice experience at prestigious firms that look good on a resumé. However, having achieved these objectives, usually a few years into their careers as associates, Haji says, many millennials leave big firms, often going in-house or working for a non-governmental organization (the two most frequent examples cited by the respondents to his research). So, a firm that has put a large investment into an associate can potentially suffer a net loss, as the associate leaves just as the return on investment is about to be realized.

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