Some industries, however, are changing due to an indirect impact by the largest generation in the country. Instead of creating change from inside a company, millennial employees are changing entire industries from the outside.
In other words, they are forcing change by not getting involved.
How is this possible? How do millennials impact an industry without ever getting involved in the first place?
For a current example, look at the legal profession. “Since 2010, we’ve seen a decline in the total number of law school applicants,” says Christopher Chapman, CEO of AccessLex. Law school enrollment has dropped to historical lows – its lowest point in 42 years; however, 2016 showed a slight increase in first-year enrollments.
Practicing law is one of the oldest professions in the world, with some experts tracing its origins to ancient Greece. In the United States, this profession is one that often symbolizes hard work, success, and making a difference in the world.
So why are fewer millennials choosing to attend law school? “Studies have shown that individuals in this age group have different expectations and aspirations for their future,” observes Chapman. “They tend to value flexibility and work-life balance, and they seek work aligned with their personal ethics.”
Work-life balance is an important ideal for many millennials. Since salary levels remain somewhat stagnant for many in this generation, the intangible benefits of work-life balance improve engagement, productivity, and happiness in the workplace.
Another potential challenge with law school and the legal profession is the cost of a legal education. With student loan debt a practical concern for many millennials, they may not initially see the overall value of law school both for their career and achieving future goals. Yet Chapman believes law school is unparalleled in its ability to prepare people for a lifetime of success and achievement.
Chapman remains optimistic about the future of the legal profession. “This is not a death knell for law schools or legal education,” he says. “I believe this is a great opportunity for law schools and the legal profession to change the view of what a law career is or must be.”
Thinking outside the box in the legal profession was a recurring theme in an interview earlier this year with Andrew Glincher, CEO of Nixon Peabody, a top global 100 law firm.While Glincher sees the potential challenges in a younger generation of lawyers, he’s optimistic about the future.
Glincher proactively encourages his lawyers to combine personal passions with their profession. One Nixon Peabody attorney primarily works with microbreweries because of his passion for the business, and another specializes in representing YouTube stars due to her love for entertainment.
Millennials are changing the legal profession by forcing the industry to do a better job of marketing the benefits of the profession. If firms and law schools want to attract the best and brightest, they must highlight what resonates most with this generation.