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New Study Shows Associates Still Aspire to Partnership, Despite Commonly Held Beliefs

Millennials in BigLaw Place Heavy Value on Work-life Balance, Even at the Expense of Compensation

Hanover, MD (April 12, 2017) – Major, Lindsey & Africa, the world's largest legal search firm, in conjunction with Above the Law, today released the results of its survey exploring generational differences in the legal industry. The survey, entitled "Minding the Gap: Do Today's Associates Defy Generational Stereotypes?", revealed that a high percentage (33%) of millennials in BigLaw still view partnership as their long-term career goal, despite the industry-wide notion that achieving partnership is difficult and undesirable in the current environment. Millennial respondents also revealed that they highly value work-life balance and firm culture, even at the expense of financial gain.

The survey polled more than 1,200 lawyers from the millennial, Generation X and boomer populations from 132 different law firms in the U.S. While nearly 50% of the millennial respondents still cited compensation as a factor in accepting an employment offer, it was not the leading determinant. Surprisingly, compensation fell behind firm culture, work-life balance and career path opportunities when deciding to accept a position. Two-thirds (66%) said they would consider a job with fewer hours, even if it meant less pay. When asked to rate importance of factors in a firm's culture on a scale of one to 10 with 10 having highest importance, work-life balance received a mean score of 7.7 in importance above all other factors.

"In the past, most lawyers would not openly state that they desired a balance between work and personal life. However, to the millennial generation, work-life balance is much less taboo," said Michelle Fivel, a partner in the Associate Practice Group of Major, Lindsey & Africa. "In fact, millennial lawyers are nearly demanding it of firms, causing firms to offer remote work, off-track roles and other flexible arrangements."

The survey also explored generational differences between associates and partners. Both groups agree that the legal profession has a long way to go to reach gender equality: 33% of associates and 32% of partners agree that U.S. law firm culture is inherently sexist. Despite this, the groups diverge in surprising ways when asked about the value they place on diversity. Only 39% of associates felt that diversity should be a priority for firms compared to 57% of partners.

"The fact that partners seem to care about the legal industry's diversity problem more than associates indicate partners view the problem from a business perspective. Partners feel the pressure of clients demanding more diverse teams and see the positive impact of these teams, which amounts to an understanding of diversity's crucial role," said Ru Bhatt, managing director in Major, Lindsey & Africa's Associate Practice Group.

Millennial attorneys, particularly those in BigLaw, take professional growth seriously and diverge from the stereotypes of their peers in the general workforce. However, they have a different way of approaching the profession than their predecessors. In order to better understand how this population addresses their work as lawyers, the survey examined a wide range of workplace and career values and trends for millennial attorneys, such as priorities for their careers, the effects of recent associate salary raises and their perceptions on the state of the legal industry.

Additional key findings include:

  • The impact of the recent salary raises on associates is divided. While 33% of associates said that their workloads had increased since the raises, an almost equal 32% claimed to have seen no change.
  • In-house counsel is not the only career path those wishing to exit BigLaw consider. 16% of associates would like to pursue government or non-profit careers, compared to 19% wishing to move to in-house counsel.
  • Millennials have little need for clients' values to align with their own. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most important, the mean response for the importance of clients' values aligning with their own was only 4.8.
  • Millennials in law consider themselves loyal. An overwhelming 70% of associates self-identified as "loyal" to their firm.
  • Firm brands are not as important to associates as many believe. Over 74% of millennials said that their firm's brand was either a secondary factor in deciding to join or not a factor at all. Despite this, the majority of millennials feel their firm's brand is well-defined (69%).

The full text of Major, Lindsey & Africa's survey "Minding the Gap: Do Today's Associates Defy Generational Stereotypes?" is available at www.mlaglobal.com/publications/research/associate-millennial-survey-2017.

About Major, Lindsey & Africa

Founded in 1982, Major, Lindsey & Africa is the largest and most experienced legal search firm in the world. With more than 25 offices worldwide, Major, Lindsey & Africa has earned recognition for its track record of successful general counsel, corporate counsel, partner, associate and law firm management placements. The firm also provides law firms and companies with highly specialized legal professionals on project, interim and temporary-to-permanent hire basis. Combining local market knowledge and a global recruiting network, Major, Lindsey & Africa recruiters are dedicated to understanding and meeting client and candidate needs while maintaining the highest degree of professionalism and confidentiality. The firm considers every search a diversity search and has been committed to diversity in the law since its inception. Major, Lindsey & Africa is an Allegis Group company, the global leader in talent solutions.

To learn more about Major, Lindsey & Africa, visit www.mlaglobal.com.

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