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There is regular discussion in the legal community about the current generation of associates and aspiring lawyers. They are (or will be) objectively better paid than their predecessors. Technology gives them (arguably) more freedom than at any point in history. And, at least recently, associates have been employed in a frothy legal market offering multiple career options. Those advantages notwithstanding, the reportedly low level of satisfaction among these “millennials” remains a mystery to many. The answer to their perceived apathy was clear to me on line in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 5. In the interest of full disclosure, it was 3 a.m. and I was freezing, so that clarity could have been frostbite playing tricks on my psyche. Borderline hypothermia aside, I, along with 50-something others, was outside waiting for a ticket to hear the oral arguments in Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. U.S., which were consolidated. In the makeshift camp of sleeping bags (some of the resourceful attendees brought tents, but the court’s marshals prohibited their use) and teeth-chattering conversation, there was palpable excitement about the court, if not the law in general. Many willing to wait for hours They were law students in clinics (some of whom had flown from the University of Texas or had driven down from Yale), undergraduates (from, e.g., George Washington, Georgetown and American universities), law firm associates (from, e.g., Allen & Overy) and others. Lest you think it was just the young ones with time on their hands, over on the more elite line for members of the Supreme Court bar, private practitioners (sans the sleeping bags) were arriving as early as 4:30 a.m. for a 10 a.m. hearing. When the temperature dropped and it started snowing close to sunrise, not a single person left, including those who were behind me and had a poor chance of making it in. (The rumor on the line was that there were about 50 seats for the public and I was No. 53). Their generation gets excited over both the allure of the online world (not to be confused with waiting on a line, wishing they had brought an extra pair of socks) and the inspiring examples of dedicated service they learned about in school. With associates, there is more often a disconnect between expectations and reality. That disconnect creates the disappointment that masks itself as disaffection. It is not, however, a helpless cause. The frustration is not necessarily with the work, the hours or the sacrifice (everyone on the line was sacrificing a good night’s sleep and the health of their toes). It is a function of inspiration and emulation. We all want to be inspired and find someone to whom we can look up. The 50-something of us (later 100-plus) found excitement in the fundamental nature of the issues. We were also moved by the sacrifice of the hundreds of lawyers collectively spending thousands of pro bono hours trying to protect rights embodied in the Constitution. And, in the case of the government’s lawyers, to safeguard the country’s security. Though the matter is highly political, the legal contributions on both sides are creating the foundation for a course of study that will be revered by generations to come. The backdrop of the event did not hurt its significance. The building itself is a majestic sight glowing in the night sky. It faces the U.S. Capitol, and the architectural juxtaposition has a potent meaning, particularly when the subject of the case to be argued is the right of habeas corpus for the Guant�namo Bay, Cuba, detainees. Seeing the justices was actually underwhelming because, after reading their words for years, I discovered that they look like regular people. Hearing the colloquy, however, reminded me that they are anything but. Watching the current solicitor general, Paul Clement, face off against the former solicitor general, Seth Waxman, is impressive regardless of one’s generation. I spoke with Waxman, now a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, as we were descending the courthouse steps and I was inspired. Law schools should encourage their students to visit the court during oral argument (pick a case in the spring and something less popular than one of the biggest cases of the year). Law firms should do the same. The trend can start with Washington-based firms, but it should proliferate throughout the country. While the millennials want all of the things the legal community is giving, the root of their dissatisfaction is in what they are not getting. Inspiring them and offering examples of lawyers to emulate should provide the progress for which we are all searching. Ari Kaplan is an attorney and a writer developing a documentary about lawyers working with Guant�namo detainees. He also teaches in-house CLE programs at firms about getting published and creative self-promotion. He can be reached at [email protected].

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