Lately, a lot of ink is being spilled on the growing tension between the baby boomers and the millennials. (I can just hear the Gen Xers — those perpetual middle children — sighing loudly for being left out of the fight.) PBS recently ran a documentary exploring the marketing-minded culture of the younger generation, while Paul Taylor, executive vice president for the Pew Research Center, has been hitting the lecture circuit promoting his recent book, “The Next America: Boomers, Millennials and the Looming Generational Showdown.” Obviously, this generational shift is a large part of the American zeitgeist at the moment.

Now it’s full disclosure time: I’m a millennial. I’m 32, which puts me right on the cusp of Gen Y and Gen X. (This explains why I have a greater affinity for Oingo Boingo than Pokemon.) Speaking on behalf of my generation, we have certain expectations when it comes to marketing, and, as it stands, the legal industry as a whole is falling short.

Is this a problem? After all, should a corporate law firm be kowtowing to a bunch of Gen Yers? While the majority of your client contacts probably fit the baby boomer or older Gen X profile, law firm marketing efforts aimed solely at this demographic are hardly going to sustain you over the next few years. In the first part of my two-part series, I explore why law firms shouldn’t neglect targeting this important demographic.

Why Law Firms Should Start Targeting Millennials

Gen X and Gen Y are becoming your clients: According to the Association of Corporate Counsel, the average age of in-house counsel is about 44. So suffice to say, it won’t be long until the people who you are tasked to target for business development are savvier with an iPad than a legal pad.

Gen Y industries need legal services: The flourishing startup market is dominated by young entrepreneurs who are swimming in venture capital and angel investor dollars. These tech whiz kids often don’t know the first thing about regulatory or IP issues, issues that could destroy their entire business. Forward-thinking attorneys and law firms are racing to push out thought-leadership content to this attractive sector.

Your law firm isn’t getting any younger, but everyone else is: Baby boomers are facing a retirement problem, in that they are not retiring. This is contributing to a gridlock situation, where young attorneys and recent law school grads are facing staggering unemployment and underemployment numbers. While there is tremendous value in retaining the institutional knowledge and reputational advantage a seasoned attorney affords a firm, no business can succeed if it does not plan for its own future. For law firms, this takes the form of hiring young talent that can be groomed to eventually become the new foundation of a firm. If your recruiting efforts fail to resonate with the next generation of law firm partners, you might not have a next generation of law firm partners.

What Do Millennials Want?

Targeting the younger generation, whether for business or recruitment purposes, is going to require a cultural shift, not just within individual firms but across the entire legal industry.

  • There needs to be a greater emphasis on technology and a willingness to explore innovative ways it can be used to create efficiencies for law firms and their clients.
  • Legal marketing needs to start embracing data analytics and allow concrete numbers and verifiable trends to guide marketing strategy.
  • Attorneys need to begin to blur the division between their personal and professional identities.
  • Law firms need to invest more time into fostering and promoting their unique internal cultures.

All of these areas, among others, will help position law firms for future success by attracting the business and skill sets of the next generation of lawyers, clients and legal marketers.

In the next part of my series, I will explore specific areas that law firm marketers can address to better position their firms for the Gen Y influx. In the meantime, if you have any feedback, leave a comment below or connect Terry M. Isner at tisner@jaffepr.com.