The recent decline in law school enrollment has created an increased demand for lateral hiring, potentially giving millennials more bargaining power. Millennials considering a lateral transfer bring a whole new perspective to job changes. Law firms looking to boost their millennial ranks through lateral recruiting should be mindful of this perspective when approaching the bargaining table.
As a millennial who recently made a lateral move—with friends who also have made recent lateral moves—I have discovered that we shared many of the same considerations when looking to move laterally to another firm. At the forefront of our minds were considerations of the firm’s online presence, future security, compensation packages beyond salary and work environment. Each of these played its own part in ultimately leading us to make a lateral move to another firm.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
In a digital age built around selfies, Facebook friends, LinkedIn requests and online dating, it should come as no surprise that the digital arena has made its foray into decision-making when making a legal career change. For many attorneys belonging to the millennial generation, the first impression is made from the firm’s website. In an age where millennials have grown up bombarded with selfies and Facebook status updates, a firm’s website is that natural place a millennial goes for the “feel” of a firm. Think of it like someone’s dating profile page on websites like Match.com or eHarmony. A bad website, just like a bad profile picture, can be hard to overcome once that first introduction is made. It is that sleek cover page on a magazine or packaging on a store shelf that can have the ability to draw you in. For good or bad, a firm’s website will make a lasting impression and can be the initial determining factor as to whether a potential lateral hire has any interest in pursuing the firm any further and certainly can color every contact or meeting with representatives of the firm moving forward. In the digital age, a firm’s website is no longer just a place to attract potential clients but a place to also attract potential talent.
A Home Away From Home
For me and many of my friends who have made lateral moves, work environment has played a just as big, if not a bigger, role than salary. Work takes us away from our friends and our family and is where we spend the majority of time, week in and week out. The overall atmosphere of a firm, from the firm’s office décor, to the people that make up the firm—both support staff and attorneys alike—can play a huge part in swaying an attorney who already has a secure job into making a lateral switch.
A firm’s office space, just like a webpage, can say a lot about a firm before the lateral hire has said even one word to anyone from the firm. In a profession dominated by many of the same job tasks, billing requirements and similar compensation packages, a firm’s office space can be one area used to make a statement about the firm’s personality. With thousands of firms across the country competing for the same lateral hires, both mid-level associates and partners, a firm’s décor can leave a lasting impression on a lateral hire and can set one firm apart from another.
It’s Not Just About the Money Anymore
As someone growing up in the millennial generation, I cannot count the number of times I have heard my grandparents and parents worry about Social Security and when it is going to run out. There seems to be a general consensus across all generations that Social Security will not be around by the time I, along with my fellow millennials, are ready to retire. With that prospect looming, building a “nest egg” for the future becomes a real concern. In evaluating whether a lateral move is the right decision, one factor that surprisingly became important was the overall compensation packages offered by firms, outside of the immediate annual salary. This included critical consideration of firms’ 401K programs and likelihood for change in the future, as well as other benefits packages such as pre-tax deductions for transit and parking and pre-tax deductions for student loans, bonus structures, health benefits, disability plans and life insurance. These ancillary benefits become stronger considerations for mid-level attorneys looking to ensure a secure future.
Keep It Digital Please
Having grown up in a time where computers were a mainstay and “Googling” directions or restaurant reviews was the norm, a firm’s strong digital presence and commitment to electronic copies was another significant factor in determining whether a lateral move would be the right fit. Anything that can make my job more efficient and running smoothly is essential. For example, something as simple (and probably seemingly insignificant) as digital dictation, was a factor I considered when weighing the pros and cons of making a lateral move. To be able to dictate my work with the ability to immediately upload it for processing and transcription, was something that makes my job as an attorney easier and more efficient.
As attorneys with high volume caseloads and the ever-present demand for billable hours, efficiency in any workplace is paramount to any potential lateral transition. The ability to easily access a file at the click of a button without having to dig through a paper file or to work from home when needed without dragging along multiple Redweld folders for the ride, has transformed the efficiency with which work can be accomplished. Having worked in a position with complete digital access, any lateral transition for me would have to have the same ease of access.
This is a trend that seems to be spreading to all firms, both big and small. With the costs associated with maintaining paper files, including mailing fees, copying fees and storage fees, it is no surprise that the overall push is to go electronic. Cost savings aside, the ability to connect digitally with clients, files and court systems can translate to better millennial retention.
Let’s Get Personal
For many millennials, job satisfaction goes beyond the obvious enticements your current firm or a new firm may have. My friends and I have found that the personal relationships you make throughout your career are just as important. The relationships that you develop at firms you work at, as well as, the relationships you develop while working with other firms during your career, can play a major role in helping to shape your perspective on potential employers and can affect your decision in weighing the pros and cons of each position.