Generation-Gap
Generation-Gap

This article, authored by MP McQueen, was originally published by The American Lawyer.

Leadership at Am Law 100 law firms remains concentrated in the hands of older baby boomers and members of the Silent Generation, born before the end of World War II. But leadership at Fortune 100 and Nasdaq companies is already transitioning to younger boomers and Generation X chief executives and general counsel, according to data from The Am Law 100, the Fortune 100 and Nasdaq companies compiled by Heather Morse, marketing director at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger.

Almost 20 percent of Fortune 100 and 30 percent of Nasdaq general counsel are Gen X members compared with fewer than 5 percent of Am Law firm leaders, Morse found.

“We are not, as a legal industry, elevating and electing 
Gen X leaders as quickly as our counterparts and our client base, whether in the Nasdaq or the Fortune 100,” Morse says.

The mismatch can create problems for law firms, consultants say.

Boomers may hoard business (and compensation) instead of sharing with rising generations at the firm. CEOs and general counsel may be more comfortable with—and more likely to bring business to—lawyers in their own peer group. Rainmakers who are Generation Xers are more likely to jump to other law firms rather than wait for promotion to practice group leaders and firm management positions.

“These Gen Xers and Millennials are not going to wait around to earn the title as boomers were taught to do,” says Jonathan Fitzgarrald, managing partner of Equinox Strategy Partners, who focuses on business development coaching and training.

He and other consultants, such as Marcie Borgal Shunk of LawVision Group, recommend that law firms adopt a team-based approach to building client relationships that includes bringing attorneys of various ages and backgrounds to client meetings.

“That way, they have multiple contact points with the clients at various generations. Also, it is a great mentoring opportunity for younger attorneys,” Fitzgarrald says.