I Don’t Get the FAIL Generation of Lawyers


QI’m a partner in a small firm. We just hired two new associates after a long hiring process. We vetted the hires, checked references, did a good job. We made good decisions. And yet, I just don’t get these kids. Smart, talented, and committed—and yet so inscrutable. Seriously. When discussing legal matters, the new associates—a man and a young woman—are fine, though very green. When discussing anything else outside of the law, and especially when around each other or other new lawyers, it’s as if I’m a lawyer from another planet. I don’t get them. At all. There’s no positives, no happiness, no future really—they seem to revel in watching others fail. It’s all about FAIL. Everything is about FAIL. They revel in FAIL. Honestly, their humor and approach—and they’ve passed around emails to me on occasion proving this—is about the latest FAIL. It’s obnoxious. It drives me nuts.

I try to talk with them, ask questions about what the hell they are talking about half the time. I even read the FAIL blog, but it just depresses me. Who needs more FAIL? And when I try to understand them, I honestly feel like an anthropologist asking questions of the natives. Except I should be the native here, I’m the experienced lawyer. At 52, am I an old man? Thoughts? Is the profession doomed? Oh, and don’t get me started on Facebook and the Twitter.

AWTF? What do you want to do, sit around a conference room and act giddy with the kids? Or practice law? You’re a practicing lawyer. Practice. Let the kids be kids, but obviously hold them to high profesional and ethical standards. Ban Facebook in the office? Useless, as you’ll also need to ban smartphones. But be a mentor to what’s appropriate and what’s not and put their feet to the fire to perform like attorneys. Or fire them.

These “kids,” with JD degrees and likely $100,000 in debt, are green and have no real financial or professional power—except maybe to be obnoxious. Maybe that’s the FAIL generation. But so long as they are obnoxious outside of the law or among their own tribe, what’s the problem? Or, if you want options, here’s what I see:

  1. Adopt an Old Codger Gestalt. Seriously, try to be like them and you’ll be the office’s old codger in less than a week. FAIL.
  2. Have a Mid-Life Crisis. Why not? Obviously what’s unsaid in your question is a gnawing feeling that you are “getting up there” and don’t have all the obnoxious freedom you think you used to have. So, have an affair, buy an expensive Porsche, wear cologne, eschew socks with your loafers. FAIL.
  3. Practice Law. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Better yet, if you think long term, trust the new associates with building your business on their own terms, so long as you provide the guidance. At least be open to that, because the Rotary or BNI or whatever you do for yourself probably does not work for them. Let them figure it out, so long as they practice good law. And that means actually practicing. That’s the bottom line.

Guess which one I’d pick?

(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sixthlie/446512316)

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

1 Comment

  1. Guano Dubango

    December 18, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I agree. The lawyer should not try to be buddies with the new lawyers. He may take them out for a drink once in a while. Also if the young female is attractive and available and he is not married either, he can always nuzzle up to her and see if she is interested in some extracurricular sexual activities.

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