Page 30

Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2014

Generational Challenges conformists and civic instincts, shaped by the Great Depression and World War II; Baby Boomers: idealists, passionate and hard working, shaped by JFK, MLK, the civil rights movement and Woodstock; Generation X: skeptical, savvy and independent, shaped by latchkeys, Watergate and the PC; Generation Y: the connected, diverse collaborator, shaped by 9/11, texting, and the “Great Recession.2” These shared experiences shape each generation’s expectations, values, motivations, perspectives, etc. For our purposes, the snapshot of each generation’s collective experiences and generalized characteristics provides insight into how they approach the practice of law. Technology- The Great Divide The undeniable distinction between the Baby Boomers and Generation Y is technology, which is the most defining influence on the youngest generation of lawyers who grew up with cell phones, internet and 24/7 access to information. This has produced associate attorneys with such practices as email as the preferred course of communication versus a phone call or a letter. “Emails are more expedient… there is no trading voice mails for two days,” says one Generation X lawyer. Older lawyers worry, however, that technology can interfere with personal relationships, which they see as invaluable to productivity and compromise. “The nuances are lost in emails,” says one Baby Boomer. “The face time with other attorneys is invaluable. I don’t know how you maintain collegiality in the profession without face time,” she adds. But young lawyers quickly point out that they maintain collegiality with peers, but in different ways than in the past. “I keep up with more of my friends and peers via Facebook than I would have time to do otherwise,” says a recent graduate. And the bar statistics support that the young lawyers section is strong and growing. The BBA Young Lawyers Section “is the largest section within the Association, and certainly one of the most active,” says Bo Landrum, BBA Executive Director. And what about where the work takes place? Is there any room in the legal profession for flexible schedules and working remotely? “We do expect the flexible work schedule and telecommunication options,” says one millennial lawyer who works for a larger firm. “If I’m writing a memorandum or a brief, I don’t understand why I can’t do that remotely,” adds another young lawyer. But “face time” seems to be a very real and important part of the firm practice. “I want to know that you are there and available if I need you,” says one mid-50s partner at a larger firm. “It’s not necessarily about sitting in your office for 8 solid hours, but more about being available,” he adds. Judge Kallon offered a similar sentiment: “If you have proven you are dependable then you can work from home or remotely.” The compromise seems to be that working remotely or on flextime is something that can work under certain circumstances in certain environments. But even if those circumstances exist, a lawyer has to prove himself first and always be available. “As long as you are keeping in contact with lawyers… letting them know where you are and your schedule… most will be ok with it,” says Judge Kallon. Being A Lawyer: All or Nothing? “Being a lawyer is not my only identity,” says one young lawyer, who graduated approximately 7 years ago from law school. “I am a parent, a spouse, a runner… there is more to my life than practicing law.” Judge Kallon offers a similar observation, saying that the looks in his clerks’ eyes say that they expect that there should be something more. “The younger generation has seen the older generation and how much they have missed and they don’t want that,” he adds. But is it about wants, or rather the decision made to enter a profession that requires long hours and unrelenting dedication? “Being a lawyer is a profession… it’s not just a job,” says one Baby Boomer. “Sure, I would have loved to attend every one of my kids’ extracurricular events, but the practice of law requires time and attention which, in turn, requires long days and weekends at times,” says another lawyer in her early 50s. So does the desire for work/life balance translate into a lack of commitment by young lawyers? According to Judge Kallon, “Older lawyers have never thought the younger lawyers were as dedicated as they were.” “This is something I had to deal with, too,” he adds. One young partner at a larger firm says that “I enjoy being a lawyer and I want to do the best job for my clients, but when I leave the office, I don’t want to think about it unless absolutely necessary.” “The youngest folks want to be involved in the family tasks. They want to spend time at the ballpark—it doesn’t mean that they aren’t as committed to the firm as older lawyers are,” says Kallon. But balance comes at a cost. “You may have to realize that you may not make as much as you want,” says Judge Kallon of working less in order to spend more time at home. The model 30 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2014
To see the actual publication please follow the link above