Avvo’s 2017 Annual Relationship study is out! Love, marriage, heartbreak, divorce. It’s all covered in the report below:
After spending a fair amount of time immersed in data about how Americans feel about being married and getting divorced, it occurred to me that marriage could be life-altering in more than the usual ways. Marriage is a big deal. It shifts your perspective and forces you to reprioritize. If it involves kids then it also involves sacrifices one might never have imagined. Things get “real.” Life gets more serious. And all of this led me to wonder: how does being married impact the way people engage with legal? Specifically, how do Millennials who are married differ from unmarried Millennials in the types of legal issues they have and how they handle them? Most people marry for their first time when they’re relatively young. Focusing on this younger age cohort can really hone us in on how matrimony – and not age – shift perspectives when it comes to legal.
So I crunched some numbers, and here is what I found:
1. Marriage may trigger legal issues that weren’t relevant before.
Estate planning is a great example. Millennials aren’t as likely as older cohorts to think about getting a will: 20% of Millennials and 32% of older Americans reported having an estate planning issue in the previous year (24% of Millennials and 38% of older Americans had an estate planning issue in the previous two years). But married Millennials are a different story: as many of them (29%) as older Americans seek out legal help for an estate planning issue. Only 10% of Millennials who aren’t married report seeking out legal help for estate planning.
Real estate is another area of law that becomes more relevant to Millennials once they’re married. Among married Millennials, 37% say they’ve had a recent real estate issue. Only 23% of unmarried Millennials said the same. How does this compare to older Americans? Slightly fewer of them (30%) than of married Millennials reported having a recent real estate issue.
This all makes sense. Marriage carries responsibility, especially to your spouse and children (if you have them). Getting a will is all about making sure your loved ones have what they need in case something goes wrong. Marriage also often goes hand-in-hand with home ownership, so real estate lawyers can become quite relevant.
2. Married Millennials are a little different in how they engage with the legal space.
First of all, married Millennials might be more likely to hire a lawyer for their legal issue. Among married Millennials with recent (past-two-year) legal issues, 39% hired a lawyer. Fewer unmarried Millennials (27%) did the same. Older legal consumers are still more likely to hire (47% of them hired for their recent legal issue), but still, getting married seems to make Millennials more likely to get an attorney’s help.
On the other hand, marriage might also simultaneously have the opposite effect: making more people want to “do it themselves.” One in three married Millennials (32%) have recently completed an online legal form, whereas only 16% of unmarried Millennials have done the same (compare this to the 14% of older Americans who completed a form online). Marriage – especially when it involves parenting – could mean having to tighten one’s budget. It’s likely that married Millennials could be torn between wanting to hire a lawyer and get it done right – for the sake of their spouse and kids as much as for themselves – and wanting to save money that their family can use.
3. Marriage might also impact Millennials in interesting psychological ways.
Married Millennials are more likely to rely on facts, not intuition, when making important decisions (40% of Millennials who are married and 28% of Millennials who aren’t, say that they rely more on fact than intuition). For lawyers, this means that if your client is a married Millennial, they may be more inclined to hear your factual breakdown of their legal situation, and carefully evaluate your credentials, before hiring you. Unmarried Millennials, on the other hand, might rely more on their gut; which means that to win them as clients you may need to appeal to them on that level.
Married Millennials also seem less worried about getting scammed. Almost half (45%) of unmarried Millennials say they worry about scams (including getting scammed by a lawyer), whereas only one in three (33%) of married Millennials feel the same. This means that if you are hoping to win the business of a young client, knowing if they’re married can tell you whether you need to try extra hard to earn their trust.
Millennials who are married are also more likely to spend money to reduce stress. One in ten (11%) of married Millennials will save money even if it means they’ll experience more stress. But one in four (24%) of married Millennials say the same. Marriage comes with stress; it stands to reason married people – even stereotypically thrifty Millennials – would spend a little more to avoid additional headaches. This means that winning their business could involve letting them know that what they’re paying for is not just your legal work, but the fact that they can unburden their legal stress onto you.
Not all Millennials are alike. I knew this even as I wrote my recent white paper on the Millennial Legal Consumer. Millennials are worth understanding as a separate cohort because most have more in common with each other than they have in common with Baby Boomers. But we can’t ignore the fact that life events force people to change. Marriage, one of life’s most significant events, can make Millennials think and act differently, including when it comes to handling the legal parts of their lives. Lawyers who recognize this can meet them where their heads are at, win their business, and serve them in ways that truly help.