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Since I was born in 1960, I fall under the tail end of the Baby Boomers, even though I don’t really have anything in common with the war-protesting, Patchouli-oil wearing archetypes of that generation. However, in discussions with colleagues my age, I’m finding it difficult not to acknowledge that Gen X’ers are more passionate about the “work-life balance” thing than the older generation. The fact that this causes some consternation is understandable. But things get tricky when the yearning for work-life balance isn’t accompanied by downscaled career expectations — professional and monetary. We need to be careful about generalizing an entire generation. We all know that there is no paradigm that fits all. In addition, things can and do change. The commercial showing a group of clean-cut 40-somethings is telling — we all change with age in manners that cosmetic surgery cannot alter. Our Gen X’ers also have grown up in an age of unparalleled prosperity. Those of us who matured in the inflation- and recession-ravaged ’70s were lucky to get jobs in the ’80s. And just to make sure we got the point, half the gold-plated firms we interviewed with before 1985 were simply gone by 1990. No, it wasn’t the Great Depression. But there can be no denying how different things were from 1992 to 2002. It should be no surprise that our expectations are different. The problem isn’t young lawyers who want to have lives outside of the office. We all want that. It’s lawyers who prioritize these activities and want to get compensated and promoted at the same rate as their colleagues who, however unhealthily, spend their evenings and Saturdays at the office. Yes, work-life balance is the catchphrase of the day, and I applaud anyone who wants to have more in his or her life than work. As a mother, I struggle with these issues daily. But as a manager, I also can attest to the fact that those who don’t put in the time learning their skills, researching the issues and just simply logging the hours aren’t worth as much to their employers or their clients as their counterparts who do. This is not merely because partners make more money from associates who bill more hours. The fact is that clients want their lawyers to be available. And, except for those few true geniuses, the best way to become an excellent lawyer is through hard work and preparation. (I should mention that while working parents, mothers in particular, are frequently derided for slacking on the job, a number of surveys have shown that working mothers actually put in more time at the office than their nonmommy female counterparts.) BONUS TIME Never is this disconnect more apparent than bonus time, the time of year when every lawyer is hoping to get a fat check or raise. I’m all for compensating those who have gone above and beyond. They deserve healthy bonuses to make up for the vacations they canceled at the last minute because a transaction hit a snag and everybody was needed to pull it back together. But should those who met the bare minimum, who simply met the literal criteria for qualifying for bonuses but who didn’t really give it their all, be compensated at the same level as those who knocked themselves out? The law is a service profession, plain and simple. Clients demand timely answers to their problems. And they demand them from lawyers who put their needs above all else. If they don’t get them from Smith & Jones, they’ll get them from one of Smith & Jones’ competitors. I’ve often heard the statistic that most people would take less money if they could work fewer hours. While that may be true for some, how many people actually put their money where their mouths are on this one? Most consultants indicate that all personal service organizations need to adapt to this change. To some extent, that’s true. On the other hand, the legal profession has a way of being brutally efficient in weeding out performance that does not meet expectations. Time will tell whether our Gen X’ers have their own commercial in 10 years. Kathleen J. Wu is a commercial real estate lawyer and managing partner in the Dallas office of Houston’s Andrews & Kurth. Her e-mail address is [email protected] The views represented here are her own and do not represent those of the firm.

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