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As you start your career, have you thought about what to expect as a first-year associate? Perhaps you have gained some insight about what your firm expects from you on the basis of your past summer employment. As you may have suspected, summer experiences were designed to showcase the firm by allowing you to sample numerous practice areas, shadow partners and senior attorneys at court hearings and closings, and attend lavish, fun social events where you were the guests of honor. This was a period when you were clearly being courted by the firm which, needless to say, was on its best behavior so that you would happily accept your offer to return as a full-time associate. To further your sense of well-being, your school and work experiences have allowed you to fraternize mainly with your peer group; law school colleagues and summer associates, considered as a class, are usually closest to each other during their tenures together. Now, as you step out of your peer group and into a generationally diverse workplace filled with people who have different experiences and preferences, how will you cope, thrive and succeed? For the first time in history, the work force spans four generations. Each of these four generations is comprised of individuals who are bound together by age, demographics, history and events, common tastes and styles. For easier reference, the first three generations have been labeled Veterans, Boomers and Gen X. The fourth generation, entering the work force over the next two decades, has many names: Nexters, Busters, Millenniums, Generation www — but the most generally accepted is Gen Y. Generations can overlap in terms of shared dates, experiences and traits by as much as four years, but certain points and divisions stand out. Even something as arbitrary as how each generation listens to its music can tell us something about that generation’s personal relationship to music and the social relationships formed through it. Regardless of how generations are known — Veterans, Boomers, Gen X or Gen Y — specific tastes, historical memories and values will be perceived differently by each generation that you encounter. What does this mean for you? Given that you are in that four-year overlap between generations, you will find that you share life experiences and generational attributes from both Gen X and Gen Y. But you will also bring experiences and expectations that have not yet been introduced into the law firm environment. In “Managing Generation Y,” Bruce Tulgen and Carolyn A. Martins have highlighted certain expectations that Gen Yers have about what their employers will provide. I want to focus on four particular expectations that they mention: having challenging and meaningful work opportunities, working independently in highly motivated teams of committed people, having easy access to cutting-edge technology that delivers documents and vital information 24/7, and getting on-the-job training as part of a lifelong process that blurs the line between work and school. CHALLENGING OPPORTUNITIES Truly challenging work is work that takes you out of your comfort zone. At first, the necessary parts of the job — document reviews, lease reviews, proofreading, making sure the client’s name is spelled correctly, calling for contact lists, due diligence, research — do not seem particularly challenging or meaningful. However, all these experiences give young lawyers the essential building blocks to understanding the practice of law. When you become frustrated at doing what seems to be mundane research, try to remember that senior lawyers will be basing their legal decisions and opinions on your precedents. These decisions offered on the depth and accuracy of your research can have a positive or deleterious effect on lives and businesses for years to come. In many cases, you will be the first line of defense for the outcome of a particular issue, so your work does matter. It must be accurate, detailed, efficient and intelligent. You are not asked to perform this type of work because you are the “first-year, and what else can you do anyway?” Firms in this market would not bill their clients a first-year associate billing rate for this type of work if someone without a professional degree could perform the job. You are given this work because at this point in your career you are intelligent and have good analytical skills, but you still need to learn how to move beyond the basics to the next level by absorbing the steps along the way. The more you embrace these steps with a positive attitude and find the learning within the process, and the more enthusiasm you bring to the routine and ordinary, the higher quality work you will produce. As a result, you will receive more respect and responsibility at a faster pace. WORK STYLES More than your predecessors, you, as a generation, have spent a lot of time by yourself, reading and spending hours on the Internet, playing video games and CDs. This solitude has given you the ability to develop an independent work style. You also spent your time growing up in classrooms that were group-oriented and playing sports that were team-focused. Even though you can work independently, the significant time that you have spent alone means that, more than your generational predecessors, you seek human interaction. Therefore, you enjoy the company of your colleagues and have considerable potential to be great team players. Law firms are, in some ways, well suited to meeting these preferences, since the matters and deals that you will be working on are staffed most typically with a partner, senior and/or mid-level associate, and junior associate. The members of these teams are highly motivated and committed people who work independently of each other on their assigned pieces of the project. How members of your team from different generations work together may be surprising to you at first. For example, Gen Xers deal with teams by working individually until the project reaches the point where their combined efforts render a greater product than the individual contributions. Gen Yers, however, will prefer to work more closely with other team members, sharing information and strategizing more frequently. As you can see, if these different styles are not addressed, significant generational conflict could arise. However, with a slight adjustment of expectations and attitudes, a working compromise can be reached to mutual satisfaction. Law firms are still hierarchical — although to a lesser degree than 25 years ago. Veterans expect deference and respect to be shown to them simply by nature of their position in the firm; they were raised to be good corporate soldiers and commanding officers. Boomers were raised under a conquer and control management style, and while they profess to using a style of management that is inclusive and creates a level playing field, these attitudes may represent learned behavior that is not entirely natural to them. As a result, sometimes you may receive mixed signals in how the work is delegated or reviewed. For example, when you are assigned to a deal or case team, you will have to be alert to who is in charge of each project and what they expect from you. The second-year associate who is helping you research a jurisdiction question might accept an e-mail bullet point list of the key cases. But the senior associate who wants a draft of a memo on that same question expects analysis to be presented in a particular format, fully explained and letter-perfect. When the partner gets the revised memo from the senior associate, she may send it back, marked up and changed, often with no explanations or comments. It will be up to you to seek out the senior associate or partner, at the right moment, to learn why something was changed. You will be expected to welcome critique and correction, with an eye toward applying what you’ve learned to the next task at hand. Self-improvement is your business; improving client services and work product is the business of the team. You will need to put your ambition and independent drive to work on behalf of the firm in order to build a future on your own behalf. Both Veterans and Boomers have navigated enormous bureaucratic procedures that were paper- and process-intensive. In today’s pace of immediate client satisfaction, these processes have been streamlined, mostly through the efforts of Gen Xers, who were well-suited for implementing these changes. Gen Xers are not known for their ability to follow rules just because they are there. They want to know why, and they challenge everything. They are also used to being questioned and challenged. You will have the least difficulty adjusting to Gen X’s work styles because you, too, ask “why” and challenge everything in an unrelenting manner. This questioning stems from the overwhelming access to information and technology that you have had almost from birth. Your exposure to these areas allows you to see different and better ways of accomplishing the task at hand, especially if it involves technology. TECHNOLOGY EXPECTATIONS You will have more comfort with technology than your predecessors. In fact, during the last few years of your educational experience, you may have received your assignments via e-mail from your professors. Those firmly entrenched in Gen Y will have had this experience as early as the sixth grade, and now, as they enter college, they may be required to arrive on campus with computers that are loaded to the institution’s specifications. As a result, you will prefer e-mail to phone conversations, but you will not default to using Instant Messenger as much as those entering the job market in another two years. Fortunately, your firm probably does have systems in place that are the most advanced that can be offered. Your frustration will come as a result of your single user experience, either at home or on your laptop. Imagine that all of a sudden over 900 users are camped out in your living room and sharing your network. Each user has a phone line open to the Internet, is downloading files and sound bites, and has at least four Web pages opened simultaneously. Add the necessary firewalls and sophisticated programs particular to law firms, and then imagine running everything from your system without outside support. The system, though efficient, would not run as quickly as the system of a single user. This situation will require your patience and understanding as you adjust to your new environment. It is natural for you to want to be respected for your authority and expertise in the areas of information management and technology. And, in terms of sharing your technological talent, some individuals will welcome your input and efficiency, especially those immediately senior to you since their understanding of these media is close to your own. But like older siblings who have had to fight for every success, some individuals from the Xers generation may feel that since they invented and laid down this techno-dynamic field, you are just the precocious younger sibling invading their domain. This doesn’t mean that you will encounter resistance from everyone in the senior generations. It does mean, however, that if you have a better way of accomplishing a project, you should find a way to present your ideas with respect and clarity. How can you make your command of Internet resources impressive but not intimidating? Remember that just as you are techno-savvy, the people more senior to you have a more savvy level of expertise in the practice of law, which you hope to learn from them. It will be one thing to gather an extraordinary amount of data from Web sites, both obscure and well-known, and another thing to present this information in a form that allows the supervising attorney to critically evaluate what’s laid out before him. Although the senior people would like to have access to this information themselves, they may be shy about asking how to get it because their generational experience has dictated that they should be all things to all juniors. Sound organization and tact are required for you to make good use of your firm’s technology and for the firm to make good use of your expertise. LEARNING AND EDUCATION You have been accustomed to multimedia learning tools since childhood. The good news is that law firms are trying to incorporate them into their training programs as quickly as possible. More and more associate professional development administrators are being hired to help track individual associates’ professional progress, as well as to revamp the continuing legal education (CLE) training formats that have been generic to law firms over the years. These administrators are encouraging attorneys to design and present CLE seminars that rely less on “talking heads” and panel discussions and more on team learning and hands-on workshops. Meanwhile, a number of outside CLE companies are quickly responding to the need for just-in-time training by offering online CLE. These programs use popup menus with a streaming video format that links transcripts of the video presentation to course materials and handouts that accompany the seminar. Online CLE programs can also be valuable research tools, since they are menu driven and offer specific state-of-the-art information from some of the most prominent attorneys in each practice field. But be prepared to meet another point of frustration: this format has been determined by the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Board as inappropriate for you to gain your required CLE credits until you have been admitted to practice for the first two years. This prohibition presents a perplexing training issue, since the medium that you are most comfortable with will be denied to you until you are more senior. On the person-to-person level, one of the most valuable educational tools that your firm can provide is a mentoring program. Mentors are attorneys who are assigned to individually help you understand the culture, procedures, and professional attitudes that give your firm its unique style of practice. By showing you the ropes and explaining the unwritten rules, mentors provide a vital link between your own ambition and talents and the firm’s expectations. They can also provide you with a confidential forum to ask for career advice and can be very helpful in building confidence and self-esteem. If your organization does not provide you with a mentor, do not despair. With extra work on your part, you can still find your own mentors within the firm. Seek out individuals that seem interested in the development of associates and are willing to share their knowledge and experience. If you invest some time getting to know them, you may find that they too welcome the kind of one-on-one apprenticeships that mentoring can provide. When Veterans and Boomers were starting out, they watched, observed, listened, and learned the anatomy of a deal by spending silent hours in the office of an esteemed partner, experiencing both the mundane and the intellectually sublime facets of the practice of law. This was a time when pay was low, the hours were long and mentoring was automatically built into the educational process. Training meant observing, then practicing, then doing the procedures under the experienced eye of a wise and senior professional. Today, these practices have been named “shadowing.” A shadowing program allows junior associates to follow senior lawyers to depositions, negotiations, closings, trials, etc., while also allowing the associates to receive billable hour credit. Because of the vital training and experience that shadowing can give new associates, more and more firms are building this feature into their first-year training programs. CONCLUSION Each generation, as it makes its entrance into the work force, places its indelible thumbprint on history, changing forever the culture that it inhabits. You, as the forerunners of Gen Y, will have many adjustments to make in order to feel comfortable in your work environment. The firm also will undergo some change. Change takes time to implement and requires patience on all sides to absorb it. You have the advantage of working with three generations that have already lived through, survived and changed with each entrance of a new generation. Hopefully, this experience will allow for a spirit of cooperation, more open communication and genuine professional growth on all sides as you are welcomed into this new era. Annette I. Friend is director of associate development and recruitment for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and a member of the Professional Development Consortium, an organization of legal professional development directors.

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