A word on the inter-generational issues going on at law firms

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When I was growing up, my Grandmother used to tell me that my generation (‘X‘) had never had it so good. Not that we were lazy mind, but that we didn’t have the work ethic of her generation. When I complained one day to my Mother about this treatment she told me that I misunderstood: my Grandmother wasn’t complaining about my slack arse nature, conversely she was pleased that my life was easier than hers had been – she now felt she had succeed in life. I said that I still didn’t understand and my mother told me that she doubted I would until the day I had children of my own. And while I still don’t have children, I do understand this deep need to try and make sure the life of generations to come will be easier than mine and that of my Mother’s (‘Baby Boomers‘).

So it was with interest that I read the recent post on the Australian Lawyer website by NSW Young Lawyers president Thomas Spohr – ‘A dangerous game: How older lawyers diminish their Gen Y colleagues‘ –  and the subsequent response by Ken Shepherd, the principal of Shepherd Legal – ‘A dangerous game: A matter of perspective‘.

Both posts are entertaining and raise serious issues and are well worth the reading time. Underlying them both though is a feeling that I’ve had this discussion somewhere before.

Now if you want to read an excellent post on how disenfranchised Millennials (or Gen Y) lawyers must be feeling as they enter the workforce, then you don’t need to go past a post written by Michelle Silverthorn on 17 July 2014 entitled – “My Generation” – which I now consider to be the final word on this issue.

In her post, under the paragraph titled ‘Reframe The Discussion’, Michelle writes:

“I’m often told that Millennial lawyers lack commitment to their employer, that we start looking for another job five minutes after starting a new one. That’s a fair criticism, but look at it from a different angle. Assume that, on average, the youngest Millennial lawyer completed law school at 26. That means that, on average, the youngest Millennial lawyer started practicing in 2007. The majority will be starting their practice in 2014 and later. This entire generation of attorneys will therefore have started working in an utter paradigm shift in the legal market [post 2007]…”

Wow! – given that Australia has a 5 year undergraduate Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) program, that equates to an entire generation (Millennials/Y) of new lawyers in #Auslaw for whom the #NewNormal has been nothing but ‘normal’.

Further, in Australia that’s an entire generation of lawyers who have never experienced a recession but who have operated – in a professional capacity – under circumstances never experienced in living memory.

Quite simply – that’s powerful. And to my shame, I had never even looked at it like this before.

So when Michelle then goes to say:

This entire generation of attorneys will therefore have started working in an utter paradigm shift in the legal market, where traditions have been upended, expectations have proven false, debt seems overwhelming, and jobs simply aren’t there. Not to mention the whirlwind of layoffs, stalled promotions and hiring freezes that started in 2009 and continue today. In other words, when you ask why Millennial lawyers won’t stay committed to an organization, ask yourself what in the past seven years has demonstrated that an organization will stay committed to them?

it makes me realise two things:

First, Michelle is wise beyond her years.

Second, my generation has failed in our duty to the next generation. We haven’t made life any easier for them – desite our bitching and moaning to the contrary – and the only question that now remains is whether or not there is enough time left to fix the problem and restore the equilibrium?

RWS_01

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