Biglaw, Law Schools

When Millennials Give Up, Do They End Up in Law School?

I was in Atlantic City this weekend (shout-out to my Rutgers Law homies), so I missed the fascinating story in the New York Times about the “The Go-Nowhere Generation,” until the ABA Journal brought it up yesterday. In a nutshell, the piece suggests that the terrible economy has broken the already questionable will of the Millennial generation and turned them into risk-averse homebodies. Statistically, this generation of young people is less likely to leave home, leave jobs, or take professional risks.

Does that mean these Millennials are more likely to end up being lawyers? Maybe even more likely to end up as Biglaw lawyers? Because nothing says “risk-averse person willing to hang on to a crappy job for a long time because he can’t think of anything better to do” than “of-counsel” at a major law firm.

In fact, if these statistics are true, we might see a deluge of would-be lawyers continue once the children raised during this economy come of age….

Here’s the money paragraph from the article:

But Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother. The Great Recession and the still weak economy make the trend toward risk aversion worse. Children raised during recessions ultimately take fewer risks with their investments and their jobs. Even when the recession passes, they don’t strive as hard to find new jobs, and they hang on to lousy jobs longer. Research by the economist Lisa B. Kahn of the Yale School of Management shows that those who graduated from college during a poor economy experienced a relative wage loss even 15 years after entering the work force.

That really sounds to me like a recipe for creating lawyer drones. Take a bunch of people who remember when times were tough, make them too afraid of failure to take calculated risks, turn that desire for job security into a willingness to bear crappy working conditions, add water (and/or alcohol), and you’ve got yourself a Biglaw associate.

Of course, as current law students know, going to law school doesn’t mean you’ve locked down job security for the rest of your life. In this economy at least, you still need to get lucky to end up with a really good job out of law school. I’ve analogized gong to a non-elite law school to playing the lottery with your professional and financial future. I’ve used the lottery analogy as a negative, but apparently a lot of Millennials expect nothing better than a roll of the dice when it comes to their chances at professional success:

Perhaps more worrisome, kids who grow up during tough economic times also tend to believe that luck plays a bigger role in their success, which breeds complacency. “Young people raised during recessions end up less entrepreneurial and less willing to leave home because they believe that luck counts more than effort,” said Paola Giuliano, an economist at U.C.L.A.’s Anderson School of Management. A bad economy can boost a person’s weighting of luck by 20 percent, Ms. Giuliano found.

Notice how popular the word “random” has become among young people. A Disney TV show called “So Random!” has ranked first in the ratings among tweens. The word has morphed from a precise statistical term to an all-purpose phrase that stresses the illogic and coincidence of life. Unfortunately, societies that emphasize luck over logic are not likely to thrive.

Umm… so you’re saying that Millennials have looked around and made an accurate calculation about how fame and money is generated in modern America? I mean, is there any doubt that in our reality TV, dot-com bubble, ringless King world that luck plays a huge role in whether somebody makes it or not? I think Millennials can be forgiven if they notice the “luck” that’s involved in turning “cat pictures with text” into a huge success, while “cat pictures with thought-bubbles” ends up on another successful venture that makes comedic use of the word FAIL. If only somebody had worked harder!

You also can’t blame Millennials for not standing in awe of the “work-ethic” shown by those who had the supreme good luck of winning the birth lottery. Mitt Romney is a serious presidential candidate because his Daddy was president of American Motors, and Mitt was able to parlay every advantage in life into a billionaire dollar career in investment management? Random!

Unfortunately, the law holds itself out as a refuge from all of life’s randomness. Law seems to be about rules, and merit, and justice. Law feels like a profession where if you work hard, you will get what you deserve. Maybe not as much as those that “get lucky,” but enough for you and yours — and in this crazy world, that’s all you can hope for.

The law seems fair, and maybe that’s really all Millennials or other children of the recession are looking for. When you see people who have worked hard lose everything because of a “scheme,” when you see your future mortgaged for your parents’ present, when you see your cost of tuition go up while the value of your degree goes down, maybe you stop looking to “break the bank,” and simply start trying to “get what you pay for.” Maybe Millennials aren’t trying to chase a dream, they just don’t want to fall for an illusion. While business and entrepreneurial careers look like pie-in-the-sky, law school looks like the real deal.

Man, isn’t the next crop of law school students in for a nasty surprise.

Generation Y Has Become ‘Generation Why Bother,’ Stats Suggest; Are Careers Affected? [ABA Journal]
The Go-Nowhere Generation [New York Times]

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