Over the past few years, there has been a lot of Internet chatter about the millennial generation and their “side hustles.” Also dubbed “Generation 1099” (because you just can’t have enough pithy nicknames), millennials frequently pursue money-making ventures in addition to their primary jobs. Sometimes these ventures are simply ways to make extra cash, but just as often they are hobbies or passion projects that also happen to be lucrative. As one copywriter (side hustling as a freelance writer) notes, “The side hustle offers something worth much more than money: A hedge against feeling stuck and dull and cheated by life.” Put another way, “The side hustle represents the hobbies and activities you did for free when you were still in school, simply because it was something you craved.”
Varying generational upbringings, some argue, are what explain the trend. While earlier generations were raised on the idea of personal responsibility and the importance of earning a steady income, many millennials (and even those, like me, on the cusp of Gen X and Y) were raised on the idea that you can be whatever you want to be. The argument is that millennials were conditioned to want a job that’s more than just a paycheck, but instead provides fulfillment, personal gratification, and purpose. So essentially, the side hustle emerges at the intersection of “follow your dreams” and “be a grownup.”
In my experience, millennial lawyers are not an exception to this trend. The cost of education makes it challenging to stay afloat on an entry-level salary pretty much everywhere but biglaw. Millennial law students are not graduating and finding the law firm jobs that were once there (and if they do find one, they aren’t nearly as likely as past generations to stay for long). Instead, more lawyers are starting their own practices right out of the gate, so they need to generate cash flow quickly. And even if financials aren’t a critical issue, many young lawyers seem driven to pursue other passions in addition to practice.
Millennial lawyer side hustles I’ve encountered include fitness studio owner/instructor, bartender, author, actor, blogger, brand influencer, baker, clothing retail employee, waiter, ghostwriter, and multilevel marketing rep (selling things like essential oils and leggings). The lawyer author of the blog Student Debt Diaries even credits his side gig as a bar exam practice essay grader with helping him pay off all of his student loans in less than four years. While it’s true that lawyers of all generations have great talents and side projects, the millennials among them seem to be the ones really figuring out how to monetize their passions. Or at least how to work an extra job until their legal career pays the bills.