There are some basic lessons learned as children that guide us as adults. Thanks to Melaine Shannon Rothey for reminding us of the wisdom contained in Dr. Seuss. For the professional development of Millennials, I heartily recommend the sage advice to Never Stop Learning!
The following contains excerpts from Melaine Shannon Rothey, Parting thoughts: Seek balance, don’t fear change, 19 ACBA Lawyers Journal, No. 12, 3 (Jun 9, 2017).
Remember the five lessons from Dr. Seuss: BE YOURSELF – Who else do you want to be? MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE – Isn’t that the reason most of us went to law school? NEVER STOP LEARNING –Knowledge for the sake of knowledge. IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE – Do I really have to continue to repeat the necessity of work/life balance? BE POSITIVE – We are surrounded by negativity all day long.
Melaine notes that there are four generations of lawyers practicing today – the Silent Generation (sometimes called Traditionalists), the Baby Boomers, the Gen X-ers and the Millennials. Each of these generations has its positives and its negatives. We can learn from both aspects. We do not always have to agree with opposing counsel or with the judge; however, we must disagree in a civil and respectful manner, whether in open court or in a pleading or in correspondence. Bad attitudes and nastygrams have no place in our profession.
Work/life balance –the line between work and home has become seriously blurred. We have to figure out a way to “check out” of the office. We have to take some serious, uninterrupted time for ourselves and our families. I know that you find this hard to believe, but the office will survive without you.
Change –change is not a bad thing. Just because we “always did it this way” does not mean that we should not try a new way to do things. At the very least, those of us that have been doing it the same way for many years should listen and entertain a new option or procedure.
Mentoring –we must mentor each other. To the Silent Generation and the Boomers, be patient with the young-uns. They really do want to learn. They will catch on and will probably improve upon the technique. Gen-Xers and Millennials, be patient with us. We are not trying to make you crazy. We are just resistant to change.
The following is an excerpt from Carolyn Heller Baird, Myths, exaggerations and uncomfortable truths: The real story behind Millennials in the workplace, IBM Global Business Services Executive Summary (Jan 2015). (View Full PDF)
Many commentaries claim that Millennials are ‘lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow.’ However, according to a multigenerational study of 1,784 employees from businesses across 12 countries and 6 industries, IBM compared the preferences and behavioral patterns of Millennials to those of Gen X and Baby Boomers.
From the Study The research done by IBM’s study debunked 5 common myths about Millennials:
Myth 1: Millennials’ career goals and expectations are different from those of older generations. Our findings indicate Millennials have similar career aspirations to those of older generations. They want financial security and seniority just as much as Gen X and Baby Boomers, and all three generations want to work with a diverse group of people. Millennials also align with other generations over what it takes to engage employees at work.
Myth 2: Millennials want constant acclaim and think everyone on the team should get a trophy. When asked to describe their perfect boss, Millennials say they want a manager who’s ethical, fair and transparent more than one who recognizes their accomplishments.
Myth 3: Millennials are digital addicts who want to do — and share — everything online, without regard for personal or professional boundaries. No question about it, Millennials are adept at interacting online, but this doesn’t mean they want to do everything virtually. For example, Millennials prefer face-to-face contact when learning new skills at work. And Millennials are more likely to draw a firm line between their personal and professional social media networks than Gen X or Baby Boomers.
Myth 4: Millennials, unlike their older colleagues, can’t make a decision without first inviting everyone to weigh in. Despite their reputation for crowdsourcing, Millennials are no more likely than many of their older colleagues to solicit advice at work. True, more than half of all Millennials say they make better business decisions when a variety of people provide input. But nearly two-thirds of Gen X employees say the same.
Myth 5: Millennials are more likely to jump ship if a job doesn’t fulfill their passions. Another fiction. When Millennials change jobs, they do so for much the same reasons as Gen X and Baby Boomers. More than 40 percent of all respondents say they would change jobs for more money and a more innovative environment.
The study also uncovered three uncomfortable universal truths:
Uncomfortable truth 1: Employees are in the dark. Many aren’t sure they understand their organization’s business strategy — and their leaders are partly to blame. More than half of the people we surveyed don’t fully understand key elements of their organization’s strategy, what they’re supposed to do or what their customers want. What does it take to engage employees at work? Millennials’ priorities align with those of other generations Inspirational leadership Clearly articulated vision/ business strategy Work/life balance and flexibility Performance-based recognition and promotions Freedom to innovate Collaborative work environment Millennials Gen X Baby Boomers 20% 30% 40% Source: IBM Institute for Business Value Millennial Survey 2014, Millennials n=1,153, Gen X n=353, Baby Boomers n=278. Q18: Which attributes does an organization need to offer to help employees feel engaged at work? Select your top three. IBM GLOBAL BUSINESS SERVICES Talent and Change Executive Summary
Uncomfortable truth 2: All three generations think the customer experience is poor. We asked our respondents to rate their organization’s effectiveness on a number of factors such as workforce diversity and attention to environmental and societal concerns. The results were favorable, with a single big exception: employees of every generation think their enterprise handles their customer experience poorly.
Uncomfortable truth 3: Employees of all ages have embraced the technological revolution, but organizations are slow to implement new applications. As more Millennials have embarked on their careers, expectations of a technological revolution in the workplace have increased. However, only 4 percent of respondents claim their organization has no issues implementing new technologies. Most cite the impact new technologies would have on their customer experience as the key inhibitor.
I hear from both senior lawyers and younger lawyers, aka “millennials” of a failure to communicate and lack of common ground on mutual expectations. Millennials have so much to offer– we baby boomers often forget that we did not graduate from law school ready to step-in and practice– we are often too harsh in our criticisms. Surveys show that millennials want to be mentored, not managed. I believe this not only requires patience in supervising assignments but also a coherent, structured approached to professional development by leadership.
Insights & Tips
Gap between perception of roles of senior lawyers and younger, millennial lawyers
Millennials view senior lawyers as mentors & back-up to fix their work
Supervising lawyers want associates to perform their work well to provide value for clients
Professional development is continual and works best when structured in a transparent manner.
The following is an excerpt from Grover E. Cleveland, Esquire, Above the Law, July 17, 2015.
Understanding how to build relationships with senior lawyers is another challenge for new lawyers. A question on that topic revealed a huge disconnect between professionals and their associates. In responding to the statement: “Associates should treat senior lawyers as their clients,” 93% of PD professionals agreed. Only 54% of millennial lawyers agreed.
Why the gap? Some new lawyers view senior lawyers primarily as mentors – or their backup. There is a common misconception among new lawyers that the role of more senior lawyers is to fix the work of junior lawyers. Senior lawyers do not want to do that. Supervising attorneys will perform a quality-control function, but they want junior lawyers to do their own work and do it well. Clients won’t pay for work and rework.
To succeed, millennial lawyers must provide value to senior lawyers, just as those lawyers provide value to external clients. But the concept of providing value can seem foreign to new grads. Providing value is generally not a skill that law schools teach or require.
Although the skills lawyers learn in school are critical, millennial associates understand they have much more to master. In recent years law schools have made significant strides in providing more practical skills training. But despite this progress, 72% of the millennial lawyers disagreed with the statement: “Law school prepared me to practice law.”
The PD professionals disagreed even more. In that group, 87% responded that law school had not prepared associates for practice. Only 13% of the PD professionals agreed that law school had prepared associates to practice law.
By contrast, when BARBRI surveyed third-year law students earlier this year, it found that 71% believe they “possess sufficient practice skills.” Why the disparate results? Until law students begin practice, they don’t know what they don’t know.
Lawyers of the baby boom generation often find it hard to manage (or, in some cases, even communicate with) their younger millennial colleagues. Stereotypes depicting millennials as unmotivated slackers reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the external forces that have shaped these intergenerational conflicts in attitudes toward the practice of law.