Question: A growing number of millennials are joining older generations in law firms. What are generational communication differences, why do they matter, and can understanding them improve performance across our firm?
Jonathan Fitzgarrald: From a communications perspective, baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials all have their own preference in terms of how they like to receive communications. For a law firm to have one approach for all three generations is a total mistake.
Understand that boomers, to the extent possible, prefer in-person communication. Gen Xers are the bridge between millennials and boomers, and they are all about efficiency. If face-to-face conversation is more efficient than email or text messaging, that’s what they’re going to do — they can easily move between communication methods. And then you’ve got the millennial who would generally prefer video communication or text messaging
From Boomers to Millennials, Assess Generational Markers
A one-size-fits-all method isn’t going to work anymore. You’ve got to be able to segment your firm’s clients, and use a form of communication that will speak directly to that boomer, or to that Gen Xer, or to that millennial, because in taking care to note these generational preferences and act on this knowledge, your stock will go up with that specific target market. They will feel as though your law firm is speaking directly to them in a way that is very comfortable and suits them.
Conduct a generational breakdown of your firm’s leaders, your firm’s attorneys and your clients. Figure out who are the boomers, who are the Gen Xers and who are the millennials; then execute on a multi-platform communications strategy so you speak to each of those target markets in different ways. The better your firm can be at speaking someone else’s language based on their generational marker, the more effective it will be at communicating whatever message it has to communicate.
Second, it is critical that firms start to look at more and better professional development programs for younger attorneys. A lot of firms don’t focus on that until someone becomes a partner. But by then that lawyer will have missed out on eight to 12 years of really good client development and client service experience. Any time there is client interaction, whether in person or on the phone, grab a younger person in your organization and include them — even if you can’t bill for their time, and even if they don’t know as much information as you or aren’t as seasoned as you are.
Millennials want to be more involved in the client development process. Involve them, and I guarantee you will like the results you see.
More Resources on Managing Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials
- The Generation Gap
- Your Boomer Retirement Problem Won’t Fade Away by Ida Abbott
- How to Be Successful at Succession Planning by Roy Ginsberg
- Communicating with Baby Boomers: Bet Practices by Linda Hazelton
- Communicating with Millennials by Linda Hazelton
- Succession Planning: A Key Strategy for Law Firm Longevity
- Generations at Work: Techniques for Leveraging Law Firm Talent at All Levels
- Getting the Most from Your Firm’s Boomers and Millennials
- How Law Firms Can Navigate the Generational Divide
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