Millennials get a bad rap when it comes to their ability to foster and maintain relationships.  Regular readers of the Maraia Minutes know that Relationships are Everything for successful rainmaking.  The underlying premise of the Maraia Method® is that developing meaningful relationships with clients by using tools and techniques that facilitate one-on-one communication builds trust and results in a resilient and successful practice over time.  Indeed, the best foundation for a professional’s practice is the enduring relationships he’s formed during the course of his career. Enter the Millennial lawyer, that member of the largest growing segment of lawyers (and clients!), who is widely believed to struggle at developing the very connections that being a successful rainmaker demands. The question must be asked: Can Millennials be Rainmakers?  And if so, how can law firms ensure their young lawyers have the skills to develop into Rainmakers?

Millennials (those born between the 1980s and early 2000s) represent a generation that is embracing new modes and meanings of success, connection and communication. Millennials are sometimes perceived to be unmotivated, disloyal and disconnected, preferring superficial online relationships over real world connections.  But are they really? Looked at from a new perspective, we can recast those characteristics more favorably to describe Millennials as placing a high premium on personal satisfaction: they are loyal, but will change jobs until they find one that aligns more closely with their personal goals; they aren’t disconnected, they just embrace new modes and definitions of relationships; and, they aren’t unmotivated, they are simply more inspired by their personal ideals than ones that might be imposed on them by their employers or peers.  No matter how you look at it, it is clear that Millennials are agents for change within law firms because firms will have to find new ways to manage Millennials in order to reap the rewards of their investment in associates.  Let’s face it, eventually Millennials are going to make up a significant portion of a law firm simply due to the passage of time.

Much has been written about Millennials’ inability to develop real relationships. Whether it’s due to preferring online connections over networking in the real world or a deficit in conversation skills thanks to texting, Millennials are widely perceived to lack skill in the relationship department. Additionally, this is a generation that grew up receiving a lot of praise and being pushed into ever more sports and extra-curricular activities where they were heavily supervised and managed by their parents, teachers and coaches. As a result, many Millennials tend to embrace working in teams rather than on their own. They prize developing close relationships with their superiors in an effort to obtain more open, frequent and affirming communication. This is great news.  Why? Because the need for collaboration and regular communication are, in fact, key tenets of relationship development and the hallmarks of being a Rainmaker.  The challenge for law firms is to harness these desires and focus them on professional development activities that teach Millennials the relationship skills they may be lacking.

Fortunately for law firms willing to commit to professional development, Millennials are eager students.  One study found that Millennials placed professional development opportunities near the top of their criteria for choosing a job. Another study revealed that Millennials place a high premium on tangible learning opportunities:

  • Nearly 60% would choose a job with strong potential for professional development over one with regular pay raises
  • 66% of those trying to pay off student loan debt would choose a job with strong potential for professional development over regular raises
  • 58% expect to be provided OJT learning opportunities
  • A mere 26% feel their employers are actually invested in their professional development

Given that most Millennials actually prize professional development opportunities and are used to being extensively coached by their parents, teachers and coaches, law firms who want to create motivated and loyal associates need to invest in professional development training.  Whether through mentoring, formal coaching or workshops, it is critical that firms use professional development training to engage their younger attorneys and foster a mutual commitment to a common goal. The focus should be on shoring up skills that Millennials might not have learned in the “digital age” of their youth.  “Old-fashioned” skills such as:

  • Calling Clients to touch base and Seek Feedback: learning to prepare for each call by doing a bit of research first, writing down the client’s probable needs and preparing a list of questions is good advice for any lawyer and will prove especially valuable for Millennials.
  • Asking High Energy Questions: learning how to ask the types of questions that lead to more conversation, as opposed to closed-end questions that can be answered with a yes or no response, is another skill that Millennials can benefit from practicing.
  • Having a System: for a generation used to lots of positive reinforcement and guidance, creating and using a system to track business development activities and putting in place metrics to measure improvement is an extremely useful tool that allows them to celebrate their improvement while providing the structure they crave.

(Regular readers may recognize these tools from Rainmaking Made Simple by Mark Maraia.)

Millennials prize collaboration, they want open and honest communication and they want it in a fun atmosphere. These are, actually, ideal qualities for building the types of relationships with clients and colleagues that endure and for fostering a Rainmaker culture within your organization.  The key is connecting these desires to their professional development goals.  We have long said that unless you find a way of approaching marketing that makes it fun, you aren’t likely to do it. So, how can you effectively target your professional development training to Millennials? Millennials typically respond very well to group and individual coaching.  Remember, affirming feedback and structured guidance are hallmarks of most Millennial’s upbringing.  To that end, Millennials embrace technology and gamification like no other generation, so incorporating those elements into professional development training is key. Millennials also do extremely well when actively mentored.  At Maraia & Associates, we’ve successfully incorporated a “firm facebook” into our training to heighten engagement with younger attorneys, launched Rainmaking Made Simple Book Clubs to introduce the Maraia Method® in an informal small group setting, and have an outstanding staff of coaches led by Mark Maraia for one-on-one and group coaching.  Whether it’s coaching a Millennial attorney or helping firm leadership craft the type of culture change necessary to make the most of their Millennial workforce, Maraia & Associates can help.

We’ve also emphasized that business development is relationship development—that is, when the desire to connect is authentic, trust develops and business takes care of itself over time. For firms that have struggled to create a culture shift where collaboration, cross-selling and alternative fee arrangements are the norm, Millennials and their willingness to eschew traditional approaches may be the disruptor that’s needed to adapt to a changing marketplace.  Just as Millennials are the largest growing segment of new attorneys, they are also the largest growing segment of new clients. Yes, Millennials can be Rainmakers and firms would be well advised to show them how to become one—at Maraia & Associates, we can help.