What does it take to manage a team with ages that range from 18 to 62? While you may face challenges in merging and guiding such a diverse group at your firm, there are certain advantages in bringing generations together as a cohesive unit.
First, let's examine the three generations that make up the workforce:
- Baby boomers (1946-1964) tend to value relationships, hard work, sacrifice, and loyalty
- Generation X (1965-1979) may be more independent, somewhat skeptical, and more inclined to seek work/life balance
- Millennials (1980-2000) are generally confident, interested in feedback, and more inclined to expect immediate meaningful work
These five principles could help bring all generations together:
1. Shared Experience
Lawyers share similar educational experiences. From Palsgraf to studying for the Bar, you and your associates likely think and work in very similar fashions.
Embrace your similarities! You all share a common core of experience and knowledge, which can ultimately assist in navigating some of your differences.
2. Shared Values
Your reasons for entering the practice of law are likely not very different from one another, regardless of age. A love of law, its rich history, and the study of its complexity afford you the opportunity to help clients in times of need. This singular drive spans all generations.
Lawyers are generally above-average communicators. Open communication and seeing another point of view is key to navigating generational differences.
Strive to keep the communication preferences of the other party in mind when you're working together. Does the older partner prefer face-to-face meetings? Does the Generation X partner prefer emails? Either way, each should be willing to adapt and meet halfway.
Lawyers may be a step ahead on this point, as junior associates traditionally work under more senior attorneys. This practice, however, is even more important with several generations under one roof.
Knowledge sharing is crucial as lawyers contemplate retirement. Many baby boomers prefer the "watch me" approach to knowledge transfer versus putting information in writing. Mentorships are ideal for this approach.
5. Best and Brightest
Most lawyers are hardworking, intelligent, and motivated to get the job done. While the days of complete sacrifice and unwavering loyalty for one's career may have diminished, millennials don't go to law school because they think it will be easy.
To succeed in law school today, you must be diligent and willing to spend quite a bit of money. Graduates from law school have a lot to lose and so much to gain. Consequently, extra effort taken to assist the millennial lawyer will likely be well worth the investment.
There's no quick-fix solution to bring all generations of lawyers together at one firm. It takes consistency and dedication, but if you follow these principles, you'll create an environment of respect and strong communication.
This article was written in conjunction with Swiss Re and is not to be taken as legal advice.