Why Understanding Generational Differences Can Make All The Difference to Your Attorney and Client Relationships

by JD Supra Perspectives

(AKA: "Buy Them the Damn Plaque!")

Today I attended a fascinating presentation by Heather Morse and Jonathan Fitzgarrald (legal marketing’s best-dressed man), hosted by the LMA Bay Area Chapter at the offices of the San Francisco Bar Association. The focus: Generational Marketing: Strategies and Tactics for Engagement with Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millenials.

Heather and Jonathan previewed for a Bay Area audience the presentation they are bringing to the LMA national conference in Orlando, Florida, in early April. Don’t miss the panel if you're goin to LMA 2014; Jonathan and Heather have produced a thoughtful, well-researched, and highly relevant survey of generational difference and how it impacts the jobs of marketers and business development folks within law firms.

Much to be said on this topic. For now, in bullet form, below are some of the takeaways from today's presentation - notes organized by me in a haphazard fashion; I typed as they talked.

Keep in mind: one over-arching message from the day was that everyone benefits when you strive truly to understand the person with whom you are working. To be sympathetic to another's point of view enables you to relate, communicate, motivate, and inspire in ways that matter. Throughout the presentation, Heather and Jonathan applied this thinking both to relationships in-house (with attorneys) and clients (GCs and others) - because, after all, marketers serve each of these groups. You'll see the shifting between these two audiences (attorneys and clients) in my notes below:



[Irony] The Boomers created the technology that so defines the Millennial generation

Different generations have different preferences; require different strategies.

There are six generations in the United States right now; four generations in the workforce. How do we alleviate the tensions between them?



- are individualistic (within a law firm, translates as: “eat what you kill,” no sharing or origination, not client-team oriented)

- live for today (short term mentality, little or no planning)

- entitled (belief: all attorneys should be treated the same. Resentment between service partners and rainmakers. They say the priority should be: good work.)

- not retiring (hoarding business they should be passing own)

There’s a backlog of Boomers in leadership.

Interesting chart comparing generations among leadership in Amlaw 100 and leading companies in US. Numbers show that clients are already making the generational shift in leadership (including among CEOs and GCs), law firms are slow to catch up.

Heather’s takeaway: diversity is not just about gender or race; age is part of the equation, too. We must make sure we consider this when we go out as a team on a pitch. A 42-year-old GC might not appreciate a meeting with a group of Boomers in their 60s. Heather tells story of how she made age diversity work successfully on a recent pitch, landing two new matters for the firm.

Jonathan tells story of building a team with a senior partner (Boomer) and first-year associate — and the client and associate connected in a way that the Boomer (senior partner) could not connect with client; made all the difference to the meeting.



- independent (entrepreneurial, do it themselves)

- self-reliant (not necessarily interested in becoming partner)

- high tolerance for risk (ambitious, willing to try new things)

- peer-focused (collaborative - like group pitches, client teams, etc)


If you understand generational differences, you can better understand how to communicate with them. Applied to attorneys...

- How they process info:

Boomers: prefer face time, phone, structured networking
Gen X: prefer email, voice mail, some social

- Their sense of purchasing influencers:

Boomers: ratings and reviews (“they love plaques and AV ratings” Heather said: “We should retitle the presentation, 'Buy them the damn plaque!')
GenX: personal referrals, peer recommendations

- How to tailor your messages:

Boomers: testimonials, links messages to mission, vision, value
GenX: direct, casual messages; utilize multiple messages

- Info delivery devices:

Boomers: smartphones, tablets
GenX: smartphones, tablets, short videos

Jonathan: when you’re dealing with Boomers, know that they come from an idealistic culture. So tie your message to the vision, culture, history of the firm.

H: GenX trust their friends (value of personal referral) as evidenced by their love of Facebook.


Breakdown in the workplace (ie law firm clients), via Ernst & Young Generational Survey:

Executive presence: Boomers lead

Revenue generators: GenXers lead

Relationship builders: GenXers lead

Adaptability: GenXers (and Millennials) lead

Social Media: Millennials lead

Entrepreneurial: GenXers lead, then Millennials, then Boomers

Tech Savvy: Millennial, far above the rest.

This slide was framed by Executive Presence on one hand and Tech Savvy on the other - polar opposites.

Jonathan: law firms are falling behind on shifting to a new generational leadership. Think about your pitch teams and materials; prepare your materials for GenXers.




- give them opportunities to lead
- understand historical culture
- rankings matter


- Avoid public recognition (“they’re there for the merit”)
- Don’t defer technology
- Be flexible in scheduling
- Evaluate based on merit, not seniority
- Emphasize results over process

- Generatons defined not by age but by markers
- Know your firm’s attorneys
- Know your firm’s clients
- Multi-platform communication is key
- Prepare for change


Question: how do you deal with regional differences: GenX marketer on west coast dealing with Boomer on east coast?

A: know these differences, and tailor how you relate/communicate with the person, based on what you understand motives them. GenX is sandwiched in the middle. We are great bridge between Boomers and Millennials.

These notes hardly do justice to the meat of the presentation, guided by Jonathan and Heather throughout the hour today. If you have a chance to see the two in action in Florida, take it. The takeaway: know who you are working with; know what motivates them, makes them tick. It'll enable you to get done what needs doing, no matter the task at hand.


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