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Millennial Mindset: Why Younger Lawyers Are Choosing to Own a Solo or Small Law Practice

by Alexa Drago on June 9, 2020

 By Jay Kamlet and Jordan Deifik

 

Generational differences between lawyers did not start with millennials, but the divide between baby boomers and millennials has undoubtedly brought this issue to the forefront of the legal industry. Traits valued by millennials, such as independence and work-life balance, may appear disrespectful or undisciplined to those from older generations. However, these traits have helped millennials in the legal industry blaze their own trail in the world of law, leading to a spike in millennial-owned solo and small law practices.

 

Less Interest in Rigid Hierarchies and Set-in-Stone Corporate Cultures

 

For decades, the long grind of becoming a partner at a law firm was considered an inescapable part of being a new lawyer. Younger generations of attorneys, rather than falling in line with the status quo, are looking for a better way to make their voices heard. They are less drawn to the hierarchy imposed by big law firms and more interested in working collaboratively with attorneys at all stages of their careers.

 

This also impacts the workplace culture that millennials are seeking. They turn away from the deference and obedience expected of new attorneys in big law firms, choosing instead to head up their own law firms where they are as equally deserving of respect as their more experienced counterparts. While it may appear to some that millennial attorneys do not want to work for the respect that older attorneys have spent decades earning, this actually diversifies and strengthens the field of law as a whole. When everyone feels that they have a place at the table, new solutions and ideas give room to breathe.

 

Millennial lawyers are also aware that the traditional law firm hierarchy can work against them in an economic crisis as new lawyers are some of the first to be affected by large law firm layoffs and furloughs when there is a downturn in the economy. Law.com suggested that over 64,000 legal industry jobs were lost in April 2020 alone. Many millennial lawyers are looking for a break from the hierarchy of a large law firm environment that can leave them vulnerable and ensuring their own economic viability through entrepreneurship.

 

 

 

Focus on Work-Life Integration

 

Work-life balance has always been an uphill battle for attorneys, with the trope of the overworked attorney who barely sees their kids becoming almost a cliché in popular media. Millennial attorneys want work-life balance from the very beginning, not after years or decades of putting in 80- to 100-hour work weeks.

 

This does not mean that your average millennial attorney is cutting corners or “running down the clock” as a means to do the least work possible. Instead, many of these attorneys are looking for work-life integration rather than a compartmentalized work-life/home-life scenario. This approach respects the importance of an attorney’s growing career while still empowering them to spend quality time with loved ones.

 

Solo and small law firms consistently excel in work-life balance when compared to BigLaw. A solo attorney or an attorney working with a small team of like-minded professionals has the freedom to create a schedule that honors their work and family obligations, while choosing how much they want to integrate their work life into their home life.

 

The Importance of Meaningful and Worthwhile Work

 

For many millennial lawyers, personal values play a major part in their choice of where to work. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 indicates that 59% of millennials would leave a job within two years if they did not believe their employer prioritized positively impacting local communities. In light of this, is it any surprise that many younger attorneys are taking the reins and creating their own organizations that engage in community service from day one in lieu of seeking out opportunities in big law firms that might have a wavering commitment to cause marketing?

 

In addition, many millennial attorneys are finding fulfillment in small firms that emphasize diversity, passion projects, and community engagement—topics that can be overlooked in larger firms. A small or solo practice gives these attorneys hands-on engagement with projects that they believe in, which goes a long way towards battling the burnout that many attorneys experience after their first few years in law.

 

The Power of Connection

 

Colorado law has always been a highly competitive industry, but millennial attorneys tend to look at their peers’ experience and knowledge as an asset, not a threat. They know that they can accomplish more together than alone. As solo attorneys and partners at small law firms, they are not afraid to reach out to lawyers with more experience than them. In fact, many have embraced the mentorship approach as a way of building meaningful connections and propelling their careers forward. According to Law Practice Today, roughly 90% of millennials are interested in scheduled check-ins with mentors and superiors, creating an opportunity for older lawyers to network and strengthen the next generation of attorneys.

 

Networking is a top priority for many millennials, but those options are not always widely available at big law firms. Internal mentorship programs at large law firms can be competitive and bogged down by unconscious bias, pushing more young lawyers to step out on their own and have the freedom to secure mentorship whenever and however they choose. Many solo and small law firms enjoy the benefits offered by shared office space and open layout plans, which foster connection, networking, and collaboration.

 

Change is a necessary part of any field. While the millennial mindset may appear to be a complete overhaul of how the legal industry functions, it is the natural next step in a field that values ingenuity, efficiency, and productivity. As it stands, these changes have the potential to improve the legal industry for generations to come.

 

About LawBank

 

Jay Kamlet and Jordan Deifik are the owners of LawBank, the largest lawyer-only co-working space in the Denver metro area. LawBank is an ideal environment for lawyers of all levels to start and grow their small law practices. With unique member benefits such as in-house CLE and educational programming as well as strategic law firm vendor discounts, LawBank provides many tools for new lawyer entrepreneurs to succeed.

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