Millennials in Big Law value work-life balance over pay

By Anamika Roy
BridgeTower Media Newswires
Millennials still view making partner as a long-term career goal and value work-life balance at the expense of financial gain, according to a nationwide survey.

Nearly 50 percent of the millennial respondents still cited compensation as a factor in accepting an employment offer, but it was not the leading determinant, according to the survey, conducted by legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa and the Above the Law website. Millennials still cited compensation as a factor in accepting an employment offer, but it was not the leading determinant, falling behind firm culture, work-life balance and career path opportunities when deciding whether to accept a position.
Two-thirds of millennial respondents said they would consider a job with fewer hours, even if it meant taking a pay cut. When asked to rate importance of factors in a firm’s culture on a scale of one to 10, with 10 having highest importance, work-life balance received a mean score of 7.7 in importance over all other factors.

“In the past, most lawyers would not openly state that they desired a balance between work and personal life. However, to the millennial generation, work-life balance is much less taboo,” said Michelle Fivel, a partner in the Associate Practice Group of Major, Lindsey & Africa. “In fact, millennial lawyers are nearly demanding it of firms, causing firms to offer remote work, off-track roles and other flexible arrangements.”

In examining generational differences between associates and partners, the survey found that respondents across the two groups agree the legal profession has a long way to go to reach gender equality. One-third of associates and about one-third of partners agree that U.S. law firm culture is inherently sexist. However, groups differ on the importance of diversity: Nearly 40 percent of associates felt that diversity should be a priority for firms compared to 57 percent of partners.

“The fact that partners seem to care about the legal industry’s diversity problem more than associates indicate partners view the problem from a business perspective,” said Ru Bhatt, managing director in Major, Lindsey & Africa’s associate practice group. “Partners feel the pressure of clients demanding more diverse teams and see the positive impact of these teams, which amounts to an understanding of diversity’s crucial role.”

The survey also found that associates have mixed reactions on the impact of the raises, with 33 percent saying their workloads had increased since the raises, while 32 percent claimed to have seen no change. Of those who want to leave Big Law, 16 percent would like to pursue government or nonprofit careers while 19 percent want to move to in-house counsel.

Millennials are “loyal” to their firm, according to the poll results. Some 70 percent of respondents used that word to describe their commitment. However, name brands are not a primary factor: More than 74 percent of millennials said their firm’s brand was a secondary factor or not a factor at all. That said, almost 70 percent said they felt their firm’s brand was well-defined, the survey found.

More than 1,200 lawyers participated in the survey, including Generation X and Baby Boomer lawyers.