Building the 21st-Century Law Firm

Ask Daliah: Millennials will let you know how to work with them

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Dear Daliah: For the new series on “Building the 21st-Century Law Firm,“ please also address the issue of handling millennials as employees and future partners.

Santiago Concha

Dear Santiago: Millennials are defined as individuals born between 1980 and the early 2000s. The stereotype is that they are entitled, can’t take criticism, and are not reliable.

So how should a law firm “handle” a recent hire or existing associate that is a member of the “everyone gets a trophy” generation?

I posed this month’s Ask Daliah question to my associates and law clerks over drinks at our bimonthly happy hour. All of us are millennials. (Ok, I’m on the cusp).

The indignant response to my question was that millennials, especially those self-selecting the legal profession, are more ambitious and creative than earlier generations. They are also more efficient because they embrace technology.

What about those stereotypes, then? Here are the answers to my unscientific survey:

1. Are you entitled?

Yes, we do feel entitled. Entitled to enjoy our jobs and still have time to enjoy our relationships with family and friends. Give us autonomy to meet deadlines according to our schedule and allow us to decide when to take time off. Face time for the sake of face time is stupid, unless you mean you want to talk through the iPhone app.

(*Saper Law has no formal vacation policy. Associates can take days off whenever they want and come into work and leave whenever they want. **Saper Law associates do not take enough vacation!)

2. Can you take criticism?

We can take criticism if it’s constructive. We also expect to get credit and recognition for our contributions. Consider deferring to us when it comes to utilizing new technologies or developing new business development strategies. We haven’t practiced law as long as the non-Millennials, but we may be able to (and want to) offer a fresh perspective.

(*This is where we laughed about an opposing counsel who does not understand how to use Track Changes in Word and sends back his handwritten mark-ups via fax. Fax!)

Building the 21st-Century Law Firm: See the rest of our coverage.

3. Are you flakes?

No! In fact, we are hyper-loyal to brands and a culture we believe in. But if that culture stops being awesome, we aren’t afraid to move on. (See No. 1.) What makes for an awesome culture? Good people and an opportunity to cultivate relationships with those good people.

(*Saper Law’s firm activities have included Monday-night workouts, laser tag, improv classes, summer volleyball tournaments, and lots of lunches and happy hours.)

Daliah Saper, founder of Saper Law Offices, is answering reader questions about building a 21st-century law firm. She can be reached at [email protected].

Daliah Saper opened Saper Law Offices, an intellectual property, digital media, entertainment and business law firm based in Chicago, in 2005. Saper is regularly interviewed on national TV, radio and in several publications, including Fox News, CNN, CNBC, ABC News, 20/20, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. She is an adjunct professor of entertainment law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

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