A new study from Cisco indicates that young professionals want to work at a place that accommodates social media, device freedom, remote working, and a blended personal and professional lifestyle. These decisions are now beginning to play a heavy role in where our nation’s youngest innovators choose where to work and, more importantly, where not to work.

Key Findings

  • 33% of employees under the age of 30 prioritize social media freedom, device flexibility, and work mobility over salary in accepting a job offer
  • 56% of college students, globally, said if they encountered a company that banned access to social media, they’d either not accept the job or find a way to circumvent corporate policy
  • 31% of employees globally believe their comfort level with new technologies was a factor in why they were hired
  • 49% of young employees would rather lose a wallet or purse rather than their smartphone
  • 30% globally feel it is their right, not just a privilege, to be able to work remotely
  • 43% think it’s mission-critical to be able to remotely connect to their workplace network
  • 60% feel it’s unnecessary to be confined to an office
  • 69% believe it’s unnecessary to work in an office regularly

Here’s what it means:

Traditionally, the legal industry has been last to adopt technology in the workplace, and this is becoming a problem for firms that are looking to replace their aging workforce with new attorneys and staff. There are two primary take-aways (among others) from this Cisco study:

First, the ‘Millennial Generation’ – our country’s future leaders and innovators – want to be mobile. This means they need to be able to work while on the road or at home, and to be able to access mission-critical applications from anywhere (home, in court, at Starbucks, etc.). Second, they want to be offered a workplace environment that blends personal and professional lifestyles into a consolidated way of life. This includes being able to use workplace tools for personal use.

What’s a law firm to do?

  1. Get in front of the situation. Deciding to embrace technology after an extended period of technology inaction can require big time and dollars.  It’s like exercise, the longer you go without, the harder it is just to start.  If, however, you build your firm’s technology a little at a time and focus on the long-term goals of stability, scalability and mobility – you’ll make sure that your investments are building on each other and not being wasted. You don’t have to have all the latest gadgets but you do need to be ready to take advantage of different tools as they become available.  If you don’t you’re potentially creating barriers that will reduce how attractive your law firm is to young attorneys.
  2. Manage technology likes it’s the 21st Century, not the 19th Century. IT is becoming so complex (and expensive) that you can’t really afford to make educated guesses when it comes to picking the right tools. Put these decisions in the hands of IT professionals that can help you create a cost-effective and modern workplace. Too many law firms feel that they can ‘dabble’ in technology and the result often speak for themselves.  It’s almost impossible to be an actively engaged attorney and stay on top of the latest technology tools on the market.  Lean on people that specialize in legal technology and it will save you a ton of time and money.  If you don’t work with professionals to put in and manage 21st Century your tools, you’re more likely to earn a 19th Century income, and you’re less likely to land young attorneys.
  3. Offer freedom in a way that doesn’t compromise compliance or security. If 68% of people believe their companies should allow them to access social media, you’ll have to do everything possible to keep your network and related information safe and secure.  Start with an industry-standard security package that includes a hardware firewall, content filtering, and an enterprise level antivirus and anti-spam solution.  This will close some (not all) of the vulnerabilities that appear when we mix our personal lives with our professional lives. Next, educate your team on the security policies the firm still expects them to follow.  Having access to social media does not mean they are free to divulge confidential or sensitive information.  The net result will be flexibility in the workplace and the knowledge of how to use technology safely, and this is attractive to young attorneys.

For those that find themselves apprehensive about the cost of all this new technology, there is some relief. Traditionally, you competed against other firms for quality candidates based on pay and benefits alone. This research, however, indicates that wages are less important than IT freedom, flexibility, and mobility for 33% of employees under the age of 30, with that number likely to continue to rise. Dollars will always matter but we are finding that we also must compete with lifestyle, and a big part of that is tech-freedom.  Make sure your firm is ready to attract and retain the brightest – and most mobile – team possible by managing technology effectively and proactively.

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