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Law Firms Can and Must Conquer Their Generational Differences

on April 8, 2014

Spark Media Solutions proudly announces a new member of our team, Drew Combs (@CombsDrew), our legal reporter who recently covered the Bay Area Legal Marketing Association (LMA) event on Generational Marketing. Here is Drew’s report and his interviews with the presenters and the attendees on their reactions.

Marketing campaigns that reflect generational differences are staples of many industries, but the legal industry isn’t one of them. This needs to change, according to two law firm marketing executives. Jonathan Fitzgarrald and Heather Morse, who head up marketing at Greenberg Glusker and Barger & Wolen, respectively, contend that law firms could benefit from embracing generationally-tailored marketing campaigns.

On March 20, 2014, the duo previewed their Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference presentation, “Generational Marketing: Strategies and Tactics for Engagement with Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials,” to members of LMA’s Bay Area Chapter.

Fitzgarrald and Morse began by segmenting the current American workforce into three generational cohorts: Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. Roughly speaking birth years serve as an easy way to characterize these generational groups, but Fitzgarrald and Morse assert that there are outliers and each person’s own life experiences and affinities are most important in determining their cohort.

While determining a generation’s beginning and ending date might be open to interpretation, that’s where the ambiguity ends. During the presentation, Fitzgarrald and Morse lay out salient and consequential differences between the generational cohorts. For example, Baby Boomers tend to be individualistic, while Gen Xers tend to be more collaborative. Other generation-defining markers, such as suburbs for Baby Boomers and MTV for Gen Xers, make it more challenging for persons of different generations to make a quick connection during a networking event or pitch session.

According to Fitzgarrald and Morse, these inter-generational miscues are especially problematic for law firms because, while Baby Boomers dominate leaderships positions at law firms (only three AmLaw 100 managing partners are Gen Xers), the generational leadership change in corporate America (law firms’ clients) is in full swing.

To fix this problem, Fitzgarrald and Morse contend that law firms have to recognize that generational cohorts are valid categories and should be viewed somewhat similarly to other ways in which they might define their workforce. For example, when doling out leadership roles and putting together clients teams, law firms should value generational diversity.

Additionally, Fitzgarrald and Morse argue that there will be other benefits to firms that recognize and respect generational differences. Foremost, they will be able to more astutely respond to Gen Xers and Millennials in their own workforce, thereby making the firm most attractive as a workplace. At some point Baby Boomers will have to turn over their practices, and it’s in their interest that the Gen Xers and Millennials there that will take over those practices are bright, engaged, and committed to the firm.

For more from Fitzgarrald, read his blog, BAD for the BRAND and follow him on Twitter @JRFitzgarrald

For more from Morse, read her blog, The Legal Watercooler and follow her on Twitter @Heather_Morse.

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