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How Your Team's Millennials Will Up Your e-Discovery Game

Sam Bock

Editor's Note: Originally published in May 2016, this article provides tips on how to succeed with a multi-generational workforce. It's top-of-mind for our team lately as we gear up for an exciting Relativity Fest panel and more content on the subject, so we thought we'd share the theme.

This article originally appeared in Legaltech News.

In 2015, millennials—the largest generation in history—moved ahead of Generation X to become the largest group in the American workforce. In the e-discovery and legal industries, where rule changes and evolving technology are the name of the game, this generational shift promises to play its own role in pushing the envelope on traditional ways of working.

So what makes millennials drivers for change? More importantly, how can e-discovery teams foster collaboration among generationally diverse colleagues—and improve their processes as a result?

Who Are Millennials?

There’s some debate over the birth years that encompass the millennial group, but the largely accepted range is 1980 to 2000.

Having come of age with immediate access to technology and the internet, millennials are known as digital natives. Born during the age of digital tech, they have lived most of their lives relying on email, Google searches, and ultra-friendly user experiences. They are well accustomed to a constantly connected lifestyle and expect mastering even emerging tech to come naturally.

In the workplace, millennials seek rapid career progression, value mentorship and collaboration, and don’t want to be suppressed by tensions caused by traditional, vertical team structures. They crave frequent feedback and are motivated by recognition. They thrive amidst open communication with both colleagues and superiors, and they are eager to have an impact on the workplace and the world around them.

Dorie Blesoff, chief people officer at Relativity, has noticed this first-hand. “At this point, millennials make up more than 60 percent of our workforce, and it’s fun to note that it’s sometimes the people with less work experience who invite us to innovate, try something new, or reconsider doing something the way we’ve always done it.”

Where’s the Connection with e-Discovery?

Evolving technology is driving change in e-discovery workflows—and vice versa. It’s a rapidly repeating cycle: as more tech hits the scene, more data finds itself on a hard drive and lands square on the desks of e-discovery practitioners. Those practitioners are embracing new workflows and technology to meet the challenge. There's a lot of excitement to do just that among millennial legal technology employees already in the field—in fact, they are extremely optimistic about opportunities in this space.

Naturally, tech native millennials are expecting these new devices, data types, and habits to become integrated into our everyday lives—put simply, they’re the consumers demanding that. So while they’re certainly contributing to that weird pile of unfamiliar data growing on our collective network, they’re also ready to tackle the consequences and excited to think up new ways to do it.

“Our relatively unique experience of growing up in the Digital Age gives millennials a strong technology background other generations haven’t been afforded,” says Margaret Wolf, senior associate at BDO Consulting. “This familiarity enables us to unlock innovative solutions across the EDRM. We are more open to using technology such as custom applications, data analytics metric-driven reports, technology-assisted review, and artificial intelligence—all of which make legal teams much more effective.”

How to Incubate Positive Change

As millennials begin to play a larger role on your e-discovery team, how can you foster collaboration and innovation to yield more effective workflows and better results? Get started with these three tactics for building the right environment.

1. Foster continuous learning.

Millennials want to be taken seriously, and they want to make a visible impact with their work. Help them do both—and stay loyal to your team—with meaningful opportunities to learn new skills and develop their experience.

“Our obligation, whether we like it or not, whether we can afford to or not (and I don’t mean just financially), is to train the new generation of lawyers,” says Jill Switzer in a recent editorial for Above the Law. “Just as I have always told clients that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, we need to tell millennials/newbie lawyers that they should never hesitate to ask. We need to be there as resources.”

2. Make your team a melting pot.

Though stereotypes may suggest that millennials are self-centered and stubborn, workplace studies show that they genuinely yearn for guidance from experienced colleagues. They recognize their leaders’ success and actively seek to learn from it.

Next time you’re facing a big project and want to tackle it more efficiently, see if an experienced practitioner is willing to pair up with a newer team member to strategize. Combining seasoned expertise with a fresh perspective is often a recipe for real success.

At Relativity, “team members come to us at various stages of their careers—from veterans of the software industry to those just out of school and new to e-discovery. This is a strength of our talent base,” Dorie explains. “Overall, we feel fortunate to have such a vibrant mix of talents, perspectives, and attributes to tackle our business challenges and opportunities.” 

3. Give everyone a voice.

While team hierarchies exist for good reason, good ideas can come from any direction. As an article from Law360 entitled “4 Ways Millennials Are Changing BigLaw” explains, “providing younger attorneys with more input can be a boon as major firms try to adapt and build a business that survives well into the future.”

If they’re like many of their peers, millennial members of your team are highly educated, creative thinkers who are “fun but professional” with no ego. They don’t need a soapbox, but they do deserve an open forum to speak their mind and share ideas.

Dorie continues: “We hire people who embody our core values, bring expertise they are eager to contribute, express curiosity and enthusiasm to learn and develop, and enjoy collaborating in teams to engage in solutions. The many perspectives that come with the variety of backgrounds coupled with shared values play key roles in our culture and our strategy.”

Ensure effective collaboration on your e-discovery team by opening the floor—and tell us how a multi-generational team has made for better e-discovery in your organization in the comments below or @RelativityHQ on Twitter.

Dive Deeper into Helping Multi-generational Teams Succeed

Sam Bock is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, and serves as editor of The Relativity Blog.