Women, millennials and the partnership track: is it the ultimate goal?
Rodrigo, Elias & Medrano, Lima
Millennials represent a quarter of the global population; they are not only a significant group but a truly powerful generation dictating social change. This generation has made work-life balance a priority, forcing different industries to end previous paradigms and start to change by adapting and evolving. The legal industry, known for its rigid structure, is working towards a more balanced and diverse workplace, focusing on women and taking measures to bring more flexibility and opportunities. For law firms, it is important to attract and retain this talent with the correct approach.
The millennial generation, which refers to those born between 1980 and 2000, with approximately 1.8 billion people worldwide, represent almost a quarter of the global population. This group isn’t important just by size but for the unique characteristics they possess that have started to change the world in different ways. As the first generation born in a digital era, they consume technology in a distinctive and more advanced way than previous generations. Technology has given them tools to further change the way they interact and to develop work characteristics and tendencies. From how they think, to what they want, millennials are ending a series of paradigms from past generations and have started to make clear how they want to live. There are two key dimensions on which they focus: personal life and career.
According to PwC, millennials form approximately 50 per cent of the global workforce. This means that they are a powerful generation of workers and with their priorities being different from previous generations, businesses are forced to change the way they approach them and what they can offer in order to attract and retain them. As Pranav Srivastava from Phoenix Legal in New Delhi stated, ‘millennials are more life-centric’, they tend to be uncomfortable with rigid corporate structures and are more willing to move on if their expectations are not being met: they seek flexibility. Jo Dooley, from Allen & Overy, stated ‘people look at their careers quite in a different way’.
For millennials, diversity plays an important role when determining how life and work should be managed. Every industry faces challenges when talking about diversity but according to McKinsey & Company, the gender gap is much wider in the legal industry than any other industry. A survey by Major, Lindsey & Africa shows that 40 per cent of millennial lawyers want to make partner; only 33 per cent of male respondents want to make partner at their current firm, compared to 26 per cent of female respondents; 45 per cent of millennial female attorneys strongly agreed that law firm culture is sexist and 56 per cent strongly agreed that there is a gender pay gap. Law is an industry known for its rigid structure so although it is no surprise that has a longer path for improvement, millennial, especially women, are pushing for a change and law firms have started to pay attention.
In the case of the legal industry, firms are starting to ask questions, to focus on how men and women want to develop their career paths because they are identifying that this young generation has a different vision of balancing life. Working with women and millennials overall is the way to change things. According to experts, law firms are urged to be honest about the challenges and transparent about what is trying to be achieved.
There are many unconscious biases around millennials and especially women and their career development in this industry, that are starting to be recognised, like assuming women are less ambitious, which is far from truth. As a consequence, law firms are taking measures to change things and to improve work-life balance, like implementing policies such as the possibility to choose flexible hours, reward working and mentoring programs. As millennials are the main focus of the implementation of these measures, embracing technology for firms is a must.
Millennials are making the legal industry change, improving the way they approach their workforce and making them implement measures for a better balance of life and work. Law firms have a long path to being completely diverse and offer the same opportunities for men and women but is with these younger generations that they start to adapt and evolve into better organisations. Millennials are a powerful generation, ambitious and with technological knowledge, who speak up for what they want and believe. They are the future and are teaching past generations that having a more life-centric vision is the new way to go.
 Major, Lindsey & Africa, ‘2019 Millennial Attorney Survey: New Expectations, Evolving Beliefs and Shifting Career Goals’ 2019.