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A friend told me that the problem with Generation Y is that we think and act collectively. We spend too much time instant messaging and hanging out in online communities, and we are overly dependent on those around us to validate our sense of self. Dubious that her summary accurately described my entire generation, I inquired whether she might be confusing Generation Y with the collectivist alien race on Star Trek: The Next Generation known as the Borg. “Laugh all you want,” she cautioned, “but give one piece of constructive criticism in a midyear evaluation to a young employee, and it’s like the sky is falling. I have to spend the next three weeks trying to rehabilitate their sense of self.” As the director of human resources, I did not doubt that she was speaking from experience. Still, I was not about to apologize for her perceived failings of the Generation Y. Long gone is the generation that could not chew gum and walk at the same time. If anyone will break the crackberry addiction current afflicting a large portion of private practitioners, I suspect it will be Gen Y lawyers. The ability to multitask is only one of many skills that seem inherent to young lawyers. Largely desensitized to virtual distractions, it is not uncommon to witness a young lawyer working diligently on a brief, streaming online music, and running an IM program in the background, all at the same time. Law firms, and at least one federal judge I am aware of, who attempt to reduce these perceived distractions � by blocking access to websites, IM programs and the like � send an ill-received “Big Brother”-type message, and simply encourage some 15-year-old computer genius out in California to design a better program. After all, there’s a reason that the term Generation Y is used interchangeably with The Internet Generation. In talking with our summer associates about their experiences so far, my fellow coordinator and I inquired whether they were using their secretaries to type letters, make edits to briefs, enter time, etc. The response we got was not unexpected. Why would they give work to somebody else when they could do it just as fast, if not faster, themselves? The reduction in support staff at many firms and businesses throughout America is a testament to the fact that new lawyers are increasingly easing the workload of secretaries, paralegals and onsite I.T., not to mention decreasing lost time in transitioning projects back and forth. They stay abreast of the latest changes in computer technology and online resources, which often leads to increased job efficiency. Who knew that there was a $50 website subscription that could alleviate most, if not all of a lawyer’s blue-booking woes? One of our summer associates, that’s who. To the skeptic, collectivist activity may suggest an inability by young lawyers to function independently or to make tough decisions without first seeking a quorum of their peers, but Generation Y is not the Borg. A natural desire to work as a team and the ability to anticipate the needs of others are valuable skills that offer practical application in the workplace, with appropriate encouragement and guidance. While young lawyers cannot continuously expect feedback or seek reassurances from those around them in order to validate their sense of self, increasing awareness among supervisors and managers of the need for periodic, constructive feedback is also not beyond the pale. Each generation brings change to the workplace that exists before it. Some of it will undoubtedly be for the better (and yes, some of it may be for the worse). But, for the most part, I think it’s all in how one chooses to address the “problem.” If you’d like to send positive feedback about this or any other column, please write to me at [email protected]).

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