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November 13, 2007

Move Over, Gen X - The New Wave of Lawyer(?) Has Arrived

(UPDATE:  12/2/07 - Kira Fonteneau of Brilliant Color makes a very important observation about the Sixty Minutes piece referenced below and the Millenials and Corporate responsibility.  Worth a read.)

(UPDATE: 11/18/07 There is a new blog called Learning Curve, a very hardworking, soon to be lawyer who just missed being a Millenial.  She continues this discussion of Millenials on her blog confirming some of discussion on Sixty Minutes through her own experiences in the law office where she is currently employed:

Moving on to what in the world is the millennial generation, it gets even worse! There are several great video clips from the 60 Minutes episode. As I watched them, I was reminded of a woman I interviewed a few months ago. She was approximately 24 years old, which puts her in the millennial generation. She had been in the waiting room for about 5 minutes and when I went to get her, she was on her cell phone. As if that wasn't bad enough, she continued her conversation as we walked down the hallway into my office. When she sat down, she half-heartedly apologized for being on the phone and then asked if phone calls during work hours were a problem! Mind you, we hadn't even began the interview! I restrained myself and didn't send her packing right then and there but I knew then that I wasn't interested in her. At the end of the interview, I asked if she had any questions for me and she asked how much longer the interview was going to take because she had dinner plans! There is a great part of the 60 Minutes clip with a similar situation between a judge and a "young lawyer".

I'm 26 and I'm constantly appalled at the work ethic of those just slightly younger than myself. Perhaps it's because they don't see themselves as adult. Jeffrey Zaslow of Wall Street Journal references in one of the video clips a survey which states that most young adults feel that "adulthood" starts at the age of 26. At 26, I've owned a home for 5 years and provided for all of my basic necessities that go along with independence. To hear that people believe this is the age where adulthood starts is just bewildering.

In furtherance of this update, the more this gets discussed with us 'redundants' the more we are seeing the truth of these video clips.  And the more it will impact any expansion plans a solo may have. Also, there is some very good follow-up from a commenter name Erik. You really need to see these videos so take the time to click on the links.)

Sixty Minutes had an enlightening snippet on the Millenials, the next generation just starting to enter the workforce.  (Take the two minutes to see the videos - link below. It's well worth it. And also click on "Our Generation" - Lifestyle and family over work.)

Move over Generation X! The "Millennials" are here and they're taking over the American workplace. There are about 80 million of them - born between 1980 and 1995 - and they approach business in revolutionary new ways. They need pampering, some say coddling, and if you don't tell them what they want to hear, they're gone! Come along as Morley Safer walks a mile in their flip flops.    

The interview is conducted with a  J. Walter Thompson account executive, Marianne Saltzman, who has been tracking this generation because she needs to know how to 'advertise' to them. 

If this is what we can expect from future workers...I see more promise in lawyers going solo then ever before.  With their tech-savvy, egocentricity and disdain for all things so 'last century' they will not (and cannot) populate the second wave law firms.  Nor will they be wanted unless the partners retire or hire career coaches and therapists as managing partners or turn every Big Law firm into a high-tech twenty-four hour Google campus.  (View: "Goofy is Good Video" - companies recognize a shortage of workers in both numbers and quality and work hard to keep them motivated and happy.)

But we hear stories all the time of these hardworking millenials new to the profession who eschew Big Law and establish collaboratives, go grass roots, harness technology in ways beyond the grasp of most of us (yes, some of us are still in technoshock) and we have yet to see what fruits their efforts will bear. But it certainly supports the statement, "lifestyle and family over work" and all the recent news about new lawyers demanding changes of Big Law which will give them greater freedoms and flexibility to have families and, well, lives.

Given the tone of my posts lately, it seems as if I'm singularly focused on this seismic shift.  I am.  Why?  Because with change there is opportunity.  Identifying the changes allows for progressive lawyers to seize the new while others cling to the old.  And this is what solos must do to not only survive...but thrive.


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Volatility offers opportunity - or so said a sign on an investment office I saw a couple of weeks back :)

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