Gen Y & law firms – the turnover, the turnover

Brooks Pierce‘s professionals and staff directors spent a morning recently with Rogan Kersh, who is Provost and a political science and demographics scholar at Wake Forest University. (I have concluded that Brooks Pierce needs a provost-political-scientist-demographer, too (at least, we need a brilliant one like Wake Forest has).)

Dr. Kersh brought us his celebrated insights about the digital age and Generation Y (Millenials).birds-leaving-nest

Invariably, those of us in the vanguard of the Baby Boom are shocked in such discussions. Shocked, to hear that members of Gen Y will hold so many different jobs in their lives.

Projections differ. Some say typical millennials will have 5 or 6, or even a dozen, jobs before they are 30 years old. Others project that millennials will have well over 20 jobs in the course of their careers.

Doesn’t matter what the exact number is: this is a challenge for traditional law firms.

It may not be so much of an issue for narrowly specialized lawyers, or for lawyers whose work is to handle high volumes of routine or standard matters. But, for lawyers who are problem solvers – for those whose stock in trade is judgment applied in conditions of ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty – the work experience they need takes more time to get than job-hoppers have got.

If “apprenticeship” is the way problem-solvers are trained best, that takes time. Is there enough time for job-hoppers to learn as they go from job to job? Can the legal profession work that way?

This is not to say it can’t be done. Job-hopping may be a good way for new lawyers to find the professional setting that suits them best. In some circumstances, different experiences at different firms may enhance professional development.

But the turnover wreaks havoc with the staffing model of old fashioned law firms.

That can be managed, too. And managing starts with identifying and understanding the issues. Thanks to Rogan Kersh for doing that so cogently for Brooks Pierce – as it appears he is doing for Wake Forest and its law school as well.

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