Understanding the War for Talent – Aging of the Workforce

The aging of the workforce is something that the legal profession can no longer ignore. The legal marketplace has yet to feel the impact of the loss of massive numbers of baby boomers that will be leaving the profession. Over this same period of time, fewer and fewer “talented” young people are expected to enter the profession. Demographic and economic projections suggest that the shortage of workers will start soon and grow significantly.

Duomo de Milano
Duomo de Milano, Italy

The Employment Policy Foundation (EPF) estimates that 80 percent of the impending labor shortage will involve skills, not number of workers potentially available.[1] Within the next several years, this shift in age distribution will cause law firms to experience an unprecedented “brain drain,” unless dramatic steps are taken by law firm leadership to look for new approaches to attracting and retaining key people. This “War for Talent”[2] is only just beginning.

Given the increasing longevity, declining birth-rates, and the disproportionate size of the baby boom generation now approaching retirement age, law firms must look at the workforce quite differently and adapt management practices accordingly. [3] Nearly one third of all Americans—76 million people—were born between 1946 and 1964,[4] and nearly eighty percent of these baby boomers say they want to work in retirement The first of the boomer generation are approaching their early sixties, so law firms throughout the country will be facing new challenges with traditional retirement policies and procedures that define retirement in terms of removal or withdrawal.For many of these boomers, retirement in the traditional sense may never even be an option.

Firenze Home
Firenze Home

[1] Testimony of Edward E. Porter, president, Employment Policy Foundation, before the Special Committee on Aging of the U.S. Senate, September 20, 2004, 5.

[2] Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod, The War for Talent (Harvard Business School Press, 2001. According to a yearlong study conducted by a team from McKinsey & Co. – a study involving 77 companies and almost 6,000 managers and executives – the most important corporate resource over the next 20 years will be talent: smart, sophisticated businesspeople who are technologically literate, globally astute, and operationally agile.

[3] See Ken Dychtwald, Tamara J. Erickson and Robert Morison, Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2006), p 14.

[4] U.S Census Bureau, Population Division, Statistical Brief. Sixty-Five Plus In The United States, May 1995.


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