Leading for future growth

  • July 14, 2011
  • Michael Dempster

The new generation talks about finding balance between work and lifestyle, being creative and making a contribution.

Reality, however, can be very different for young lawyers who face long hours, mundane tasks and don’t necessarily feel free to express themselves.

This means that firm leaders must understand the needs of young talent, and newcomers must understand the firm’s expectations.

Gary Luftspring, a partner with Ricketts, Harris LLP in Toronto, says that while young associates do talk more about lifestyle than senior staff, they’re also willing to put their heads down and work extremely hard.

“Associates who are happy see the whole picture of why they do something and how it contributes,” Luftspring says. “Even tedious jobs can be endured if “frustration time” is limited, and associates understand that they are helping the firm.

HR professional Jim Fries says leaders concerned about retention do want to understand what motivates young lawyers.

“I’m not sure the old model holds . . . where the hours the new lawyer had to work were excessive. I think fewer people are buying into that.” “[Young lawyers are] either choosing to go with a private, independent practice or work for a corporation or an oil and gas company. It’s not about achieving a partnership.”

  • To successfully recruit and retain young lawyers, Fries suggests leaders:
  • Be clear on where you are taking the practice and where the individual might fit in.
  • Review expectations and agree upfront what’s acceptable before a new hire comes to the firm. For example, is flex time okay? Can the lawyer come in at 10 a.m. and work until 8 p.m.?
  • Discuss if and how the firm supports employees for their community work.
  • Address work-life balance. Young people want to contribute and are looking for flexibility, he says. They want to know that they can meet family commitments like attending kids’ school concerts.
  • Get to know them personally and professionally after they are hired.

Published in the October/November 2011 issue of National Magazine.