Above the Law

These days, in almost every legal practice, practitioners range in age from 25 to 80 years old. New lawyers are starting their careers younger and younger and attorneys are retiring later and later. As a result, there are significant generational differences between the youngest and oldest attorneys within the same legal practices and often these differences can lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and other negative consequences.

New lawyers may misunderstand what is being asked of them; older lawyers may misunderstand the information that is being communicated or the manner in which the information is being communicated. This is generally not the most productive way for working relationships to be built or work to get done.

As a new lawyer, it is your responsibility to accommodate the attorneys around you. With respect to generational differences, there are a number of easy ways to do this.

1. Be mindful of generational differences

Being mindful of – and sensitive to – the generational differences in your office will serve you well. If you can demonstrate from day one that you understand that there are significant differences in the way all lawyers in your office practice, and that you are willing to accommodate those differences, you will be well ahead of your peers in your efforts to assimilate into your legal practice.

2. Observe

In the early months of your career, observe how more senior lawyers in your office work and make choices that will ease the relationship between you. For example, consider communicating with more senior lawyers in person instead of by email. If you are preparing a document for a more senior attorney, find a similar document on your office-wide document system that was prepared by that attorney and emulate his or her work product. Likewise, mimic a more senior attorney’s dress code. If the senior lawyer always wears a suit, at the least, wear a sport coat or suit jacket when you are in his or her office. Your objective should be to meet the more senior attorneys in your office more than half way (think 90% of the way).

3. Give Respect

In all instances, be respectful of those attorneys who have dedicated their lives to the practice of law. Treat them courteously and with deference. Finally, make efforts to learn from them – they are a wealth of knowledge and often enjoy sharing their experiences with new lawyers.

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