I came across this great article in the New York Times by Kevin Roose that showcases the rise of millennial mentor-ship programs. The article highlights what would be the expected reservations from the “old guard” executives about taking advice from junior members of their team in a variety of industries including banking, venture capitalists, credit card companies, make up, and media companies.
I find myself reminded of my former employment as a paralegal in my early twenties. More specifically, at a time when my supervising attorney (a 50-something year old with over 25 years of legal experience) was very hesitant to take my advice about social media presence, not to mention his aversion to email communications. Nowadays, I am lucky to be part of a firm that appreciates and pushes the boundaries of adapting legal services to millennials.
The article also discusses an increase across the board of “generational consulting” and was my personal introduction to this term. The idea of bridging the generational gap is a practice I have seen more often in my personal life while trying to explain to my 90-year old grandmother what Instagram is. The idea of bringing together generations to propel business and attract a wider audience hadn’t occurred to me and I should say, I applaud the executives for taking this leap. As a side note, I totally plan to use this as leverage on Grandma!
So, despite my status as a tail-end millennial, I find myself sometimes feeling out of date or touch with even my own peers. Right now, in my third year of law school, my fellow classmates are on average 5 years younger than me. I am constantly discovering new perspectives about the law and life from these younger peers. Specifically, I find their approach to “lawyering” (though individual to all) is on a completely different spectrum than attorneys who have been practicing for ten plus years.
My peers are trying to make law and, more importantly, themselves more accessible. We aren’t quoting the Supreme Court to our clients, and in some instances, we are even “friends” on several social media channels. There is some speculation that this giant leap towards modern legal practice could be harming clients and that more traditional tones equal a more professional approach. So, the question begs, can we provide a high level of professional, millennial, legal representation?
The idea that as society progresses our laws should reflect these changes, means that we must start transforming the players involved in the legal scene. Reading older case opinions can be confusing (unless you are casually fluent in Latin), but there is some disconnect in the legal attitude, specifically attorney approach. Most of the world has a bad taste in their mouth when they hear the word “attorney,” and unfortunately, most clients end up reaching out for help when it’s too late because lawyers might not have the best friendship ranking. Regardless of which school you belong to, as members of the legal community, we have an obligation to change this mentality and set a more welcoming and personal approach when we are interacting with clients.
My own vision of practicing law is rooted in helping people, and being more than just a facilitator of paper. I am trying to facilitate dreams for people and I think the traditional relationship between counsel and client is not necessarily aligned with this mentality. Unfortunately, intimidation is often an admirable trait, and when advocating for their client, this can definitely be a good thing. But if your own client is afraid to call, we need to take a step back and readjust our attitude to help foster the professional, yet personal relationship. Insert big shout to Kelly and Craig DuFord for their amazing example.
I think the lesson from the article and my recent work experience answers the above question affirmatively. You can always learn from others, but you have the potential to learn EVEN more from unexpected places. And even if the next generation of lawyers say something like “I got you fam,” that doesn’t mean they don’t know to get down to business. In fact, I would offer that humanizing the role one plays as an attorney, paralegal, or intern will do nothing but benefit the business, especially the relationships between the people involved.