Now that the new Vault rankings are out, it seems appropriate to reflect on the common refrain from senior lawyers about their colleagues under 30. Last Friday, Idealawg kicked off another round Gen Y bashing. The issue this time was whether Gen Y’s supposed obsession with work-life balance was harming client services.
Here are the last two of four pointed questions posed on Idealawg:
As I said above, one thing that troubles me deeply in this ongoing discussion about the generations is the important matter of client service. In the millennial cries for work-life balance, I seldom hear the client mentioned. (I have posted about this absence before.) Third question: Has there been a shift in what is considered the lawyer’s responsibility for client service?
Work-life balance (could someone come up with another phrase? this one’s getting very old) and client service are not either/or. Both can, often do, and most often should co-exist. Both are important. But both do not seem to hold the same weight in the hearts of at least some millennials. Last question: Why then did they become members of a service profession?
I think I can answer both of these questions:
* Answer to question 3: No.
* Answer to question 4: Money.
Cool? Okay, my turn to ask some questions.
Why are people over 30 obsessed with questioning the work ethic of people under 30? Did the kids do something wrong? Did they lead the economy into a toilet? Is there some kind of great problem with the legal profession that managing partners, law school deans, and ABA officials are powerless to stop unless 28-year-old attorneys collectively try just a little bit harder?
Put another way, is screaming at younger people anything more than what older people always do when they are out of ideas and answers of their own?
In fairness, there is nothing wrong or even particularly surprising about older, more experienced attorneys hand-wringing over the work ethic and commitment of younger attorneys. By the same token, I’m pretty sure younger people bitch about their station in life all the time, and have done so throughout history. This part of the game hasn’t changed with millennials, because this part of the game has been going on for millennia.
What has changed, clear as I can tell, is the internet. Now the carping and complaining that has always taken place in bars, on the golf course, or at Rick’s Cabaret now has the power of digital dissemination. All of the feelings of entitlement, of frustration, of abject desperation are now online.
But it’s really just a different medium for communicating things younger people have always thought.
On the flip side, I think it was Poseidon who first said “these young kids have no respect.” The ability of the older generation to misremember their own youth is legendary. Apparently with age comes a feeling of “my friends and I were smarter/tougher/better … yet infinitely more humble and respectful than the kids these days.” Trust me, there is some senior partner/baby boomer out there reading this now who thinks that the junior associates at his firm are careless and undisciplined. That guy has long since forgotten about all the LSD still resting in his spinal column.
So yes, participate in the generational wars if you must. It’s a fun pastime I engage in every Thanksgiving. But let’s stop pretending that this inter-generational aggression is anything new. I’m on the wrong side of 30 myself. It won’t be long before I’m screaming about these younger bloggers with “no respect for grammar or even basic syntax with their newfangled voice-recognition texting machines.”
The debate about Gen Y in the legal workplace goes on [Idealawg]
Are Generation Y Lawyers a Bunch of Slackers? [Legal Blog Watch]