Work-Life Consultant Cracking the Code of Millennial Legal Generation

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Millennial generation, those born between 1982 and 2002, have their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Judith Finer Freedman, a work-life consultant, is trying to teach law students and young lawyers how to thrive in their profession, while at the same time teaching senior attorneys how to connect with Millennial lawyers to improve retention rates among new hires.

Finer Freedman, the author of Cracking the Code: Unlocking the Potential of Future Leaders in the Legal Profession, recently addressed both groups at The University of Tulsa. On October 5, she spoke to a group of established attorneys at TU’s Allen Chapman Activity Center as part of the law school’s Speed Networking event. The following day at John Rogers Hall, she met with TU law students.

Millennials grew up over-parented and immersed in technology, and personal connections are extremely important to them, she said. They expect a level work-life balance and informality on the job that many in the Baby Boomer generation do not.

Statistics from the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) show that 43 percent of new legal associates at large firms leave their firms within the first three years of practice and 78 percent leave within five years. Finer Freedman said understanding the Millennial generation and acting upon that understanding will help firms retain talented young attorneys who will lead their practice in the future.

“One way firms can do this is with mentoring,” Finer Freedman said. “Mentors need to be firm that they are not responsible for the success of the mentee’s career, but they will open doors to gain exposure in the practice for the mentee. Another way firms can do this is by understanding how important personal connections are to this new generation. Taking the time to invite a new hire to shadow a client meeting or simply stopping by a new hire’s office to ask how things are going goes a long way with this generation.”

The Millennials, of course, have their own role to play. Finer Freedman spoke to TU law students about workplace paradigm shifts, work dynamics, and the expectations of senior attorneys. At the end of her seminar, she facilitated a discussion of three different role-playing scenarios. She related what senior attorneys expect from them in terms of communication, work style, and basic workplace protocol.

Finer Freedman is the founder of The Balanced Worker Project (, which works to develop solutions for the workplace challenges of balancing work/life balance, build bridges for effective connections between generations, break through barriers in cross-gender communication, and bolster the benefits of mentoring relationships to build retention.

Finer Freedman, a Tulsa native who now lives in Canada, previously worked in marketing for the Coca-Cola Corporation. She has since earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from The University of Toronto, and is pursuing a doctorate in counseling psychology. While conducting psychology research, she found that workplaces were practicing old paradigms that did not fit with the realities of worker’s lives.

“I did not want my research to sit on a shelf and collect dust, so I began to work with law students to help them understand the realities of practicing law,” Finer Freedman said. “It seemed as if students were in for a rude awakening when they began to practice law and had no idea of the trade-offs that were ahead of them. I am passionate about providing law firms and law schools with solution-focused, practical strategies to strengthen the profession.”

She has worked with such law schools as The University of Texas School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Houston Law Center, and South Texas College of Law. In addition to law schools, Finer Freedman works with many graduate university business programs such as Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School and The McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas.

“In these fields, there can be a tendency for a blind devotion to the work that takes control, and these professionals can begin to feel overwhelmed and lose the energy and enthusiasm they originally held for their jobs.”

A busy person herself with work, parenting, and school to balance, Finer Freedman maintains a work-life balance by using the framework of “no guilt.”

“I don’t feel guilty about saying ‘no’ to work colleagues or friends,” she said. “I utilize my family network to gain the support I need for my three children. And I don’t apologize for hiring help for my children when I need it. The flip side of that is when I am with my children, I am in the ‘here and now’ and don’t focus on the phone or work when I need to focus on their needs. I never apologize about organizing my time so that I meet my work and personal goals.”

Scott Been