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» Clients, Practice in General, Solo Practice » "Gen Y" Lawyers vs. "Gen Y" Clients

"Gen Y" Lawyers vs. "Gen Y" Clients

Posts here and here over at Simple Justice, as well as related blog posts here and here, provide some interesting discussion on Generation Y attitudes.

Admittedly, I had to look up what Generation Y means. Surprisingly, that didn’t give me the clear answer I wanted. I’m pretty sure I’m part of “Gen Y.” I did look to Wikipedia for the definition of Gen Y, didn’t I? Isn’t being tech savvy part of it? Anyway, without a clear answer about what Gen Y is, I’m just going to assume I’m part of it. I’m also going to assume that it encompasses all lawyers under 35.

That said, I think a large number of Gen Y lawyers do possess the “all about me” mindset and sense of entitlement Scott Greenfield discusses. Even though some Gen Y lawyers are different, I’m not going to bother to waste time discussing that here. In my experience, a post like that gets a certain type of response. Instead, what’s really interesting to me is that I rarely see that same kind of “all about me” mindset or sense of entitlement in my under-35 clients.

I should begin by making it clear that many criminal defendants do have a certain “all about me” mindset and sense of entitlement. I’ve had clients who feel entitled to other people’s money, cars, and even girlfriends. You name it, they deserve it. However, they almost always seem to understand that they are working outside of the rules of civil society. They are basing their life decisions on a sense of self-importance and entitlement that most if not all of them realize is contrary to the law or at the very least common courtesy. They feel like they’re entitled to something and that they’re the only people who matter, but they usually know they’re likely to get in big trouble following those instincts.

I find myself more worried about the “all about me” mindset and sense of entitlement I see in Gen Y lawyers. Unlike criminal defendants, they may soon be in charge of legal profession. They feel entitled to a certain lifestyle without providing anything of value to their clients, but they also think society should condone it. I’ve interviewed law students for clerk positions who have tried to dictate to me the terms of their employment. Some of them insisted on discussing raises, benefits, and working around their schedule before they ever told me a single thing that would make me think they’re competent. I had to ask myself: are they serious? Based on what little I know about the job market these days, I’m pretty sure they should be happy to get a job interview in the first place. Don’t they realize people are willing to do the job for free? Some might even pay me to hire them. Don’t they realize they have no marketable skills? What happened to getting good at something first?

I’m definitely not worried about society suddenly tolerating or encouraging the attitudes that lead people to commit burglaries or robberies. There will always be people who selfishly break the rules, and a large number of them will always get in trouble for what they do. On the other hand, no one seems to be stopping Gen Y lawyers from pushing their worldview on the legal profession. What’s going to happen when everyone starts thinking they’re entitled to be paid for doing nothing of value? I’m concerned there’s going to be a flood of lawyers taking people’s money intending to do nothing, but I’m even more concerned that I’m going to have to practice in a profession run by people who think that’s okay.

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4 Responses to ""Gen Y" Lawyers vs. "Gen Y" Clients"

  1. This goes for peole outside of law practice as well. Over the last few years I have interviewed hundreds of potential employees at a chemical production facility. The first question to come from that age group almost always relates to benefits. Most if not all of those hired can’t understand why they have probationary pay, or that their performance reviews determine their raises, if any. We’ve had a large percentage quit, and their exit interviews always include a gripe that they didn’t like their performance to be tied to their pay.
    It is a generation of entitlement. I wonder if the generation of folks older than me would have thought the same about my peers.

  2. shg says:

    Matt, your post shows two critical aspects that are often forgotten in the rhetoric of the discussion. First, not all Gen Y lawyers fit the mold; some (like you) are not selfish and entitled. It’s a generalization, and like all generalizations, doesn’t fit every member. Every Gen Y lawyer has the choice of living up to his responsibility or demanding that the world revolve around him.

    Second, this generation has formalized its expectation of work/life balance in a way that no prior generation has ever done. There is no parallel in any other generation, which is what distinguished Gen Y from prior generations. It’s up to each individual lawyer to decide for himself who he wants to be, and each has the choice of making sure the description that characterizes a generation isn’t the one that fits him.

  3. Good point, though you forgot to mention that it’s different for those of us in Generation Y. We will soon have to deal with those no-good punk kids in Generation Z. Talk about a generation that really sucks…

  4. Andrew (the other one) says:

    I hope I’m not the only person to be amused by a member of the original “Me Generation” complaining about how young people are lazy and self-centered.

    Anyway, Mr. Greenfield’s complaint is the eternal complaint of every older generation about the younger generation. It was said about the Baby Boomers, it was said about Generation X, and now it’s being said about Generation Y.

    The same thing will happen with Generation Y that happened with the Baby Boomers and Generation X: they will get old, become less self-centered, become integrated into society, forget what it was like to be young, and complain about young people.

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