Understanding Millennials

By Kristyn Connors

If you had asked me 24 hours before starting my first job in HR what a law firm administrator did for a living, I would have had no idea. I would probably still have had no idea had you asked me after my first week, but, shh, please don’t tell the firm administrator that I worked under at the time. Upon starting my job as an HR assistant, I was lucky enough to work directly under an incredible firm administrator and I quickly began to realize that it took a very driven, patient and no-BS type of person (read: superhero) to succeed in this type of position, while also succeeding in keeping their sanity. I also quickly began to realize that if I was one day going to have this job, I’d better start taking notes.

Regardless of which side of the political divide you find yourself on, I think we can all agree that the need for justice isn’t going anywhere, and, therefore, neither is the need for lawyers and, in turn, law firms. And what’s a law firm without its administrator? A group of attorneys just wandering about making their own decisions and being expected to keep themselves afloat? I think I just shuddered on behalf of all of us. So, if we all start warming up to the idea of this new generation of millennials running the show sooner rather than later, we will find ourselves in a much more comfortable position when we reach the proverbial “down the road”.  

I’m sure you’ve all stereotyped millennials at some point over the past decade, especially in recent years when the group seems to be causing significant waves in the workforce as we (or, more specifically, you) spent years knowing it. By definition, a millennial is “a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century”, however, the reputation of millennials as being impatient, idealist multi-taskers with short attention spans and a want-it-all attitude far-precedes them and supersedes Webster’s description. 

While a previous generation found inspiration in the words that John F. Kennedy once said, “…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”, these same people view millennials as a group more likely to say, “ask not what I can do for you, ask what you can do for me (because I’m waiting)”. Therein lies both a challenge and an opportunity for law firms to take that typecast and turn it into something positive and worthwhile. Just because there are proven generational changes sweeping the workforce, that doesn’t mean that law firm administration as we know it must go down with the ship.

Millennials are a unique group because they were born in an era that, while technology existed, kids still played outside after school, because a computer was something that their parents had in their home offices, not in their pockets. They grew up and watched the world to which we have now grown accustomed develop right before their eyes; however, unlike older generations that also viewed this same transition, millennials saw the people making these developments less as peers and more as role models, giving them the (sometimes false) confidence that they, too, could change the world. Because millennials grew up alongside technology, they have the acute ability to look at a company from the outside in and tell the company how it may better utilize technology, even regarding age-old processes that no one thinks twice about anymore.

Law firm administration is such a multi-dimensional position; it makes perfect sense that millennials would have all the primal characteristics to be grossly successful in it. Multi-tasking?  They’re on it. They probably have 10+ Internet pages open on their phones, and I’d bet you that their brains work very similarly. Attached to their smart phones? Maybe, but that also means that if a partner needs something after-hours, there won’t be an issue getting in touch with millennials, even if they do strive for that much-coveted work-life balance. Overly social? Most likely, but since when is encouraging teamwork and collaboration a bad thing?

With services such as Google, Netflix and Uber constantly at their fingertips, why wouldn’t millennials be impatient when served anything other than instant gratification? While a seemingly frustrating trait on the surface, their impatience may be a good trait in a law firm administration position. Think of all those employees and clients who wait until you follow up 37 times to get you what you asked for the first time. Not in a millennial’s world. Millennials know what they need to get a job done and they aren’t afraid to be overly-persistent to make it happen. Gone are the days where things fall through the cracks because of lack of response; millennials just won’t have it.

While you might find that the list above seems to be an accurate depiction of all the millennials you know, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. So, what if they want it all?  Let them have it all. If they succeed, great, give them some more! If they fail, that’s okay too, let them get back up. Let them dust off their own, independent shoulders and give them a bite of that slice of humble pie you have waiting for them. I promise they’ll be waiting for it, and they’re probably hungry, too.

Kristyn Connors is the Director of Administration at Fein, Such, Kahn & Shepard, P.C. in Parsippany, New Jersey.

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