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New Survey Shows Millennial Lawyers Aspire to Partnership Despite Being Critical of Law Firm Culture

Women Are More Critical Than Men of Law Firm Management, Compensation Structure and Business Model

Hanover, MD – April 4, 2019 – A new study conducted by Major, Lindsey & Africa in conjunction with Above the Law showed that 40% of millennial lawyers view partnership as their long-term career goal. That number is far higher than that of any alternative career path. Millennials’ interest in becoming partner comes despite the belief that partnership is much less desirable than it was a generation ago and that the law firm business model itself is fundamentally broken. The survey polled more than 1,200 Above the Law readers from U.S. law firms.

“There’s no question that this generation operates differently than their predecessors, and the law firms that are best situated for future growth are the ones that are open to changing the status quo,” said Ru Bhatt, Managing Director in Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Associate Practice Group. “Law firms need to work with millennials to address their concerns or otherwise risk putting themselves at a disadvantage for attracting talent in a highly competitive market.”

The survey also reveals key differences in the experiences of male and female attorneys. When asked how long they would like to work at their current firm, 33% of male respondents said they want to make partner at their current firm, compared to 26% of female respondents. Meanwhile, after partnership, men are more likely to see themselves as in-house counsel in 10 years, whereas women aspire to go into non-profit and government work.

The difference between the perspectives of men and women are most visibly pronounced on issues such as sexism in the workplace and the gender pay gap. 45% of women strongly agreed that law firm culture is sexist, compared to just 14% of men. Meanwhile 56% of women, and only 18% of men, strongly agreed that there is a gender pay gap. Women were also more likely to prioritize diversity and inclusion: 63% of women strongly agree that a diverse and inclusive workforce should be a priority compared to 37% of men. Women across the board were more critical of law firm culture, compensation structure, and business model.

“It’s clear that men and women have different priorities, which suggests that there may be internal friction and growing pains as firms continue to evolve,” said Michelle Fivel, a Partner in the Associate Practice Group of Major, Lindsey & Africa. “Balancing their unique interests and concerns will need to be top of mind for law firm management as the field continues to grow more diverse.”

Additional key findings include:

  • Work-life balance remains the top priority. Both men and women view work-life balance as the most important factor in evaluating potential employers. 75% would trade a portion of their compensation for either more time off, a flexible work schedule, or a cut in billable hours.
  • Informal mentorships are more meaningful than formal ones. Nearly 61% of respondents said that an informal mentor has a significant or crucial role in their career, compared to nearly 29% for a formal mentor. Women tended to value informal mentorships more than men.
  • Firms should consider how to increase loyalty. While nearly 70% of millennials self-described as loyal, over 75% were either open to new job opportunities or actively seeking them. However, respondents who described themselves as “highly loyal” were much less likely to be seeking new job opportunities and also placed a high value on firm transparency regarding career paths.
  • Millennials are optimistic about the future. 62% agreed that millennials are transforming law firm policies and culture for the better; close to 70% were confident that they will achieve their 10-year career goal.

The full text of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s 2019 Millennial Associate Survey: New Expectations, Evolving Beliefs and Shifting Career Goals is available here.

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