April 25, 2019

The Millennial Future Is Here

By Holly M. Polglase

I’m one of those tail-end Baby Boomers, which really only means that I missed out on most of the good stuff inextricably linked with that generation. I was too young to be a hippie and go to Woodstock or to wear my cork-souled platform shoes to dance at Studio 54. Tail-end Boomers like me were the first latchkey kids who grew up on Hamburger Helper and reruns. Ignoring my homework, I planted myself in front of the TV until dinner, watching The Big Valley, Leave It to Beaver, and Dragnet, the late ’60s cop drama about Los Angeles detectives Friday and Gannon. When Sgt. Joe Friday was on a roll lecturing the bad guys, I was transfixed. One such lecture from 1968 contains his musings on the youth of today, back then. In it, he chastises three hippies for ignoring how easy they have it, telling them, “You’ve grown up on instant orange juice; flip a dial, instant entertainment; dial seven digits, instant communication; turn a key, push a pedal, instant transportation; flash a card, instant money . . .” Sound familiar?

Millennials, like the generations that have gone before them, have been the subject of criticism by their elders for being spoiled, self-centered, and lazy. We’ve heard the complaints that they never look up from their phones, don’t work late, and expect everything to be handed to them. As I recall it, hippies were going to be the end of America, too. The reality is that the Boomers grew up, got jobs, had kids, and America prospered. So, I’m not pessimistic about the country’s future or the future of our bar organization. The next generation of lawyers will do things very differently from the Boomers but, then, the future is never like the past. TIPS is changing to serve the needs of the next generation of members and leaders. They are not just coming, they are already here, and we need to provide the value and services they need or they will find them somewhere else.

Saddled with student loans and having entered a tough job market during the recession, many Millennials do not have the financial means to support the travel and expense of being involved in a national bar organization. When their income is adjusted for inflation, Millennials make less than their parents did, and many law firms will not pay for bar dues and travel. Therefore, younger lawyers put less emphasis on face-to-face meetings and more emphasis on the communication tools they have at their disposal. While conference calls can be deadly, we can replace some in-person meetings with video conferences and remote training to encourage younger lawyers to be involved. TIPS has already begun reducing in-person meeting requirements and replacing some training for its general committees with remote training. With the help of technology, we can and will do more to alleviate the need for lawyers to leave the office and their families to be a part of our leadership and attend our meetings.

The financial constraints thrust upon them have lead Millennials to spend less and look carefully for value in what they purchase. They are more educated than previous generations, so they are well equipped to seek and appreciate value. At TIPS, we are focused on providing value to all our members, including young lawyers, and have included programming at our events that is focused on Millennials and their needs. Our Section Conference, coming up on May 2–5 at the Loews Hollywood in LA, has programing and a social event just for young lawyers. For instance, one session titled “Creating Your Rock Star Brand and Building a Career You Love” focuses on how to build the foundation for a sustainably successful career. Other programs focus on basic trial and litigation skills and are geared toward new and experienced lawyers alike. Many of our other CLE programs throughout the year offer similar young lawyer tracks and events.

New lawyers question the need to do things just because that is the way things have always been done. They are not impressed with the need to “pay your dues.” Boomers may view that attitude as impatient and presumptuous, but it really comes from a sense of questioning the value of “paying your dues” when a lawyer is actually ready to move up to the next rung on the ladder. The officers and leaders of TIPS recognize the need to include Millennials in the Section’s leadership and to offer them opportunities to make decisions on the future of our organization. Therefore, we have committed to including them in positions of leadership on our standing committees, task forces, and our governing body, the TIPS Council. In addition, our Leadership Academy provides young lawyers with training and support to be leaders in their community, their firms, and in TIPS. The program exposes the selected participants to a wide range of leaders in the law who candidly share their experiences and knowledge and discuss their successes and failures. Academy members learn to develop their own leadership style and how to put that style into action. After graduating from the Leadership Academy, each member is appointed to a leadership role in TIPS.

Going forward, how will we know what new lawyers want from their bar association? We need to ask them. During our Fall Leadership Meeting this past October, TIPS held a mandatory plenary session for all TIPS leaders. We invited six leaders of the Young Lawyers Division to come and speak to us. We asked them what new lawyers want from TIPS and they told us. They want to give back to their community and the bar and perform meaningful work. They want to get information and CLE that is of value to their practice, and they want to get it via technology that allows them to maximize their time. They want successful careers but place a significant emphasis on their time with friends and family, so they work differently using the technology available to them. They value face-to-face time and are willing to travel but only when necessary—in other words, less than their predecessors. We can and must deliver on these terms or we will not continue to succeed.

The young leaders we have in TIPS today are just as enthusiastic and willing to sacrifice to be involved in our Section as we were at their age. They face constraints and pressures that we did not face and they have technological advantages that we did not have. Falling back on age-old complaints regarding “kids today” will not change the fact that our organization is dependent on them for our future, and we will have to meet their needs to attract them as members and leaders. I am excited about the future of TIPS and the changes we are making to achieve our goals and serve our members—of every generation. n

By Holly M. Polglase