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Calibrate’s Jenny Schwope shines a spotlight on issues in hiring and managing law firm business services professionals ‒ from both sides of the generational divide.

When people talk about generational conflict in law firms, the focus is often on lawyers.  However, at Calibrate we’ve found ourselves on the front lines of generational issues that are increasingly challenging for business services teams in law firms.

We frequently hear from both our clients and candidates who are struggling with performance issues that are rooted in generational differences. And, as we increasingly see junior Revenue Enablers leaving the industry citing issues that are unique to Millennials, we’re paying close attention to generational issues among legal business service professionals.

Below we explore the top two areas of frustration for both senior management and Millennial Revenue Enablers: Promotions and Flexibility. We’ve also provided some advice on how both sides can do a better job of bridging these divides. It is clear that this fight won’t be won by one side or the other. Instead, both sides need to see how they can adapt their styles to find common ground.


Senior Management


Be clear about timelines from the beginning.

When candidates hear in interviews that there are growth opportunities, Millennials often think that means immediate growth opportunities. Lay out the timeline during the interview process so everyone starts on the same page. Quick growth for you (perhaps 2-3 years until a promotion), may mean something different to a Millenial who is expecting a promotion after 12 months.

Clearly communicate your Core Competency Benchmarking.

We are starting to counsel clients on being transparent about their Core Competency Benchmarking at every level within the marketing department so everyone is clear about what the goals are. Every marketing department should be doing this, and the reports should be available to all staff so expectations are clearly communicated. Reviews and performance discussions should focus on these benchmarks.

Think about titles and opportunities for growth.

Millennials understand that they need to work their way up the ladder (they really do!), but many want every rung of that ladder to have a new title. Consider adding “Sr.” and “Jr.” titles to your structure allowing for more official rungs on the ladder.

Millennial Revenue Enablers


Be realistic about timelines.

Understand that you’re likely working in a culture where it is expected to take 12 months for you to just get your feet wet. Position yourself well for a promotion by being great at your job and having a positive, “can do” attitude so that should an unexpected opportunity arise (someone leaves, department re-structure, etc.) you will be thought of first to take that step. Outside of those unique opportunities and while you’re waiting for the next step, be sure to use every day as an opportunity to learn more about your department, the firm, and the specific partners that you support.

Understand what success looks like.

Different firms have different expectations around what a successful business services professional looks like. When you start a new role, take the first 6 months to observe the stars of the team and take note of what is making them successful. Then accurately assess yourself compared to the stars. If you think you’re exceeding expectations but aren’t being recognized for this work, ask your manager where else you can improve and most importantly, be wiling to act on their feedback. Hint: Don’t start this conversation by asking how you can get promoted. Start it by asking how you can make your manager’s life easier, and/or how you can better support the firm/partners/practice group/office

Don’t get caught up in titles.

First, I get it. Titles are important to us all. But, also know that at the beginning/middle of your career especially, experience is paramount. If you are doing a knock out job, and you are a true team player, you will be promoted when the time and opportunity comes. If you’re not being promoted, then either your understanding of what success looks like isn’t accurate, or there simply isn’t a place for you to go (yet!) within the structure of your team. If you feel the latter is the case, you can ask about what the timeline looks like for you so you can have accurate expectations. If you’re getting great experience and mentorship, that is extremely valuable and will pay huge dividends down the line so hang in there if you think there is a long-term path for you at your firm even if growth won’t be immediate.


Senior Management


Start talking to firm leadership

Like it or not, this issue is not going to go away. As frustrating as it may be to hear that your (less experienced) team members want more flexibility, this issue will continue to make it challenging for you to attract and retain the best talent if you don’t adapt. A little flexibility goes a long way and instills a strong sense of loyalty, so work with management to identify areas of flexibility that your firm can allow. Maybe it is allowing people to work from home on snow days, maybe it is allowing people to leave at 5pm to go run/take care of children/volunteer with the expectation that if there is still non-urgent work to be done that day, it can be done from home. I can’t stress enough how often we hear candidates who want this level of flexibility.

Clearly outline expectations in the recruiting process.

If you need someone to be able to travel “regularly”, make sure they have a clear understanding of how much regularly is. If you need them online and responsive until 11pm every night, that needs to be discussed too. Don’t assume expectations are aligned unless you’ve talked specifics.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

If your firm already does allow for any level of flexibility, use that in your recruiting and retention strategy. This is unique among firms and can help to attract and retain the best talent.

Millennial Revenue Enablers


Ask up front.

If flexibility is something that is important to you, ask about it during the interview process. You can ask about this in interviews, but this should come once you’re fairly far along in the process (not on a first interview!). Be specific in what you’re looking for because your definition of flexibility may be vastly different than the firm’s.

Be prepared to earn it.

We regularly talk to candidates who are looking for some degree of flexibility, and often the answer is that flexibility can be earned over time. It is still relatively rare to find a legal marketing role that will have a high level of flexibility from the get go. Know that most firms will compete to keep great talent, so first, focus on building a reputation as a star member of the team. Once you have that reputation, you have more leverage to negotiate for more flexibility. Know that this will take time.

We look forward to sharing our insights into how firms are responding to generational differences on the staff side of the house as new trends emerge.

Jenny SchwopeAuthor Jenny Schwope is a Recruiting Manager with Calibrate.  Jenny works directly with candidates and law firm clients to ensure everyone’s needs are met throughout the life cycle of the recruiting process.

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