The March 2015 issue of Law Practice Today (LPT) focuses on the theme of multigenerational and multicultural issues at law firms. As Editor in Chief of LPT, I wanted to also serve as the issue editor for this particular topic. It is an interesting one that seems to creep into conversations at my law firms and in bar activities on a daily basis. It is a struggle, and it simply can't be ignored.
Depending on the size and makeup of your firm, you might have traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X and Millennials in the mix. Many articles provide the definitions and traits tied to each. They often have little to do with the lawyer business and more to do with employers and employees in general. I've changed the "generations" around a bit to better identify with the real struggles that law firm management encounters--what I call the originals, "junior" senior partners, next-generation partners and the largest..."others" (entitled "not an equity partner and who cares?).
What this topic really addresses are underlying and overlying issues tied to attorneys of different ages and generations--work-life balance, dual-income households, retirement, telecommuting, technology, social media, the billable hour, nannies and au pairs, quality time with the kids, and materialism. Besides age, factors and issues related to race and gender become part of a firm's cultural makeup. It is one thing to fund a women's initiative and another to have female partners. It is great to have a diversity officer on staff, if the end result is actually diversity. Yet a complaint of many departing attorneys of varying diverse backgrounds is that the culture was simply not comfortable.
Hopefully, this article will resonate with conversations you've had at your firm about hiring, succession, communication and culture. It is not a quick, easy fix--but a philosophical approach that you choose to engage in.