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A question that came to me after a webinar I led on April 14th warranted a longer and widely distributed answer. While the question was focused on law firms, I believe it applies to other types of firms of professionals and knowledge workers as well.

Q: What key changes do you think Gen Y/ Milleninals (same generation) will drive in terms of how law firms operate (e.g. changes to law firm structure and process, changes to hourly rate billing model)?

This is a juicy question to speculate about.  My answer, admittedly, is a combination of realistic trendwatching, projection of typical Gen Y/Millennial traits, and a bit of wishful thinking. Here goes:

I think we will see influenced by the Gen Yers, more flexibility, more demand and existence of diversity and inclusion of all kinds and more representation of Gen Ys (and later generations) in the strategic direction and governance of firms.

Facetime will be demanded to a lesser degree as a daily expectation (appealing because that can reduce real estate costs for firms). Both Gen Y and X will push this through their savvy use of technology and social networks. However, human nature won’t change radically as to the importance of keeping top-of-mind through in-person visibility and interaction and the significance of non-verbal cues in communication. Skype and other video communication from mobile apps will help to change attitudes about non-essential in-person facetime.

Some of these changes will come about more quickly, not because of Millennial demands in general, but because the male Millennials are speaking up publicly - unlike most of the men in prior generations - to admit they want changes in the flexibility and structure that women have been more vocal about. When it’s obvious that the workplace needs to be structured to make it work better for everyone and their clients of all generations and levels (my mission for the last dozen years), change has to come.

We will see more regular collaboration among firm colleagues and with clients. Again, that is happening already. The key to this is the willingness to change compensation systems that often reward lone ranger behaviors rather than the behaviors desired to enable maximizing collaboration and helping others. That means financial incentives for transitioning clients and roles, mentoring, coaching and enabling the best person for both billable and non-billable work to be selected and accept the role 

Billing models have been changing slowly for some time, and not from Gen Y influence. Clients will always be the most important influence and driver of change regarding billing models. Another driver is the success of alternate firm models, including virtual firms that can operate at lower costs and do equivalent quality work. Those firms are being started primarily by the younger half of the Boomers and Gen Xers.

Please chime in with your thoughts, comments, positive and negative and keep a dialogue going. It’s up to all of us, Millennial or not, to help determine the future and use our influence.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot       www.pdcounsel.com 





n      A component of the engagement package is reward. So organizations will adopt Innovative Ideas to Reward Their Valued Workers. Employers will focus on recognition and non-financial rewards that will provide the psychic rewards that professionals and other top talent need to keep them going and loyal.  And firms will learn to go to the source of most welcomed ideas – workers suggesting what rewards other than money are most appreciated. I bet that one of them, especially for Gen Y, is employers listening to their ideas and taking their suggestions seriously – so this one is a two-fer!


       Different generations and individuals have their own ideas of what is meaningful recognition. Rewards may need to be customized and must be perceived as fair.


        Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com


n      The concept behind the buzzword of the last several years will rise in significance. Focus on “Engagement” Will Replace the Focus on Retention.  That’s because we know that just having bodies in place is not the answer; the goal is increased productivity, which comes from sustained engagement and leads to greater profitability. Herman expects to see a new functional title: Directors of Employee Engagement morphing from Directors of Retention. It may be a new title, but my guess it will incorporate or collaborate with the professional development and employee benefits functions. Firms will increasingly recognize that to raise the quality of the client experience they have to improve the working experience of staff, professional personnel and managers.


      Time to go back to striving to be "the employer of choice" and identify what produces long-term engagement.


        Phyllis Weiss Haserot      www.pdcounsel.com


n      The  counterpart to succession preparation as we experience an aging workplace is another forecast: Employers Will Accommodate Older Workers Like Never Before. Employers need to get the work done; many workers, including successful professionals and executives, want to keep going whether or not they really need the additional money to live comfortably. The Herman Group suggests that employers will see the benefit of avoiding recruiter fees and expensive contract help by bringing back their retired personnel on part-time, seasonal or temporary bases, even if the older workers can dictate their own terms. I can envision organizations hiring their former personnel with knowledge no one else would have to the same degree or dissuading them from going elsewhere for the typical “busy seasons” or employing them for training and coaching the next generation to continue top service to clients.


      This will require sensitivity in communication to younger workers about the benefits to them and facilitation of cross-generational dialogue within work teams and mentor partnerships. But it sounds like a win-win for many organizations seeking continuity  of client service and culture.


        Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com


I have made it an annual rite for several years to review and give my take on the forecasts most relevant to my readers fron the Herman Trend Alert for each upcoming year. So here goes the first of four I have selected for 2010.

n      The  forecast that I hope the most becomes reality, the sooner the better because it is vital, is Increasing Attention to Succession Planning and its sidekick “succession preparation.” The longer firms put off serious preparation for the next generation to step into the big Boomer shoes the greater the danger. As  huge numbers of Boomers near the exit in their current workplace (not necessarily out of the workforce as such), the more behind the eight-ball and the less competitive firms will be as the economy picks up and competitors’ innovation accelerates. The current breather many organizations have allowed themselves during the recession will leave them gasping for air. Succession planning and preparation is needed at all times. Anyone whose expertise and contacts will be missed can cause a serious business disruption and loss of clients if quality transitions are not in the works. Remember, talented personnel can leave for numerous reasons besides retirement.


Phyllis Weiss Haserot          www.pdcounsel.com


The question came up in planning a program I am presenting to a group of human resources professionals: How much has the severe recession affected Boomers' attitudes and plans for retirement? Based on national (U.S.) surveys and interviews and interviews by various generational experts (including me),  the majority of Boomers (75% in several surveys) wanted to keep working past the age of 65 when asked in and around 2005 (boom years). This is reflected in surveys sponsored by Merrill Lynch, AARP and others. 

Much of the Boomers' desire to keep working was based on non-economic grounds - and still is. They want the intellectual stimulation, social aspects, opportunity to make a difference and to continue learning. For many, it is closely tied up with their identity. Those are strong motivations,

Their resolve to keep working has only strengthened given the subsequent losses in their retirement funds. But it is not an attitudinal  turnaround, though the time frame may have changed. And the leadership tensions between Boomers and Generation X following them have heightened because of economic constraints. The problem is that the pie has shrunken both organizationally and personally, at least temporarily, under current economic conditions - which are, overall, worse than either of the generations has ever seen. While times were good, the fear was of a dangerous skill and leadership gap as Boomers eventually stopped their current careers for encore careers or retirement. And they weren't moving out fast enough for Gen Xers to take the reins. Now the two generations are competing for fewer jobs with less opportunity to hold on or to move up.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com


Some interesting comments on what's ahead for partnerships were offered by two outgoing UK law firm chiefs Tony Angel and Guy Beringer on a panel of "Legal Week Evening with...." in October 2007. Here is a summary of key points:

*   The idea of partnership for life in a law firm will be gone.

*   People will have more than one career, and when they reach their highest point in an organization, it's time to move on.

*   People will become partners in a firm for 5 to 7 years and move on.

*   Management will change. External managers will be brought in; in 10 years an outside chief executive officer may not be unusual.

*   Lawyers will be welcome in outside management roles if they can demonstrate the ability to improve the business.

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