Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Generational Gap in the Corporate Setting

In a world where information technology advances faster each day, the need for flexibility and the ability to adapt to change is critical. These advancements also bring about a greater generational gap, which is sometimes more trying on more senior colleagues.

Over the last few years, many workplaces have seen a change in the way that things are run. Younger employees are quickly catching on to the new waves of processes and technology, and older employees are often shaking their heads. The value of the knowledge possessed by our senior law partners and peers is unmatched, but is something that has brought about a bit of controversy at the same time. It has become a recent trend for younger lawyers to request unconventional ways of getting work done, only to the dismay of their traditional counterparts. This matter, though controversial, can be resolved with clearer understanding of each side’s stance.

Senior partners have made claims that recent law grads are lazy, and lack understanding of what the field is all about. This could not be farther from the truth. What really exists is a new way of thinking and a mentality open and thirsting for change. The younger legal generation has and seeks ways to achieve the goals and practices of their superiors, but in a different, more efficient way. From flexible hours, to nontraditional working conditions, these “newbies” have found a way to put their own mark on the practice of law.

In resolving this issue, it is necessary for the more mature generation to see things through different eyes. There are various things that account for this understanding. First, times are different now than they were 20 years ago. Computers and technology in general are the driving force of almost every business. The need and use of them is essential to efficiency, and has taken over traditional business practices. This is also something that baby boomers are not quite used to. Some members of the baby boom have embraced technology, but many have seen it as a roadblock. Without being open to these advancements, a greater divide arises between senior and new lawyers. Younger attorneys are eager to use new devices and procedures, while older ones find comfort in traditional ways.

Second, flexible scheduling is no longer the wave of the future; it is commonplace today. Older lawyers are used to customary 9-5, with regularly required overtime. Nowadays, much work is done outside of the office because of the implementation of remote work capabilities. Lawyers can do work from home, out of town offices, on the weekends, and even in some circumstances, from vacation. This new form of scheduling can make an established attorney standoffish to those taking advantage of the flexibility. Are they slacking off? How can they be getting their work done outside the office? It is these questions that baby boomers pose as they see the younger generation appearing to work without sweat.

Third, the younger generation is avid about finding different ways to do the same business. With more options existing for leisure, family lifestyles and making them all work, it is second nature for youngsters to think outside the box on how to get it all done without compromising much. This nature is what had brought greater separation between the 2 generations and lack of understanding as well.

The misunderstandings that lie between the established and the rising are not the result of ill changes in the legal profession. Just as times have changed and technology has advanced, the ways and means for accomplishing all that life has to offer is forced to progress as well. Like the young lawyers of 20 years ago, today’s fresh attorneys strive to have it all; careers, family balance, leisure and overall success. To do this, working mothers take pride in being able to have their careers and be the mom that they had, all at the same time. What they desire their reputable counterparts to understand is that the passion and prestige that they hold for the profession has not gone by the wayside. Lawyers, both young and old, know the significance and character possessed by the field and take heart in maintaining that regard in society. What younger lawyers seek to get baby boomers to understand is the means must not remain stagnant, as long as the end holds the same.

In achieving these ends, newer attorneys work to prove that they are far from lazy, but rather hard-working; a characteristic prevalent in any person persevering through law school. What more mature lawyers do not see is the work and effort their young associates put in to make their ride appear so smooth. Working from home may sound glamorous, but like anything, there are cons. Flexible work schedules a great for balancing one’s personal life and career, but bring about the great challenge of getting everything to work together. Technology can also be a roadblock, as the office-on-the-go is great, until it becomes chained to your wrist. It is these difficult circumstances that the more established class of attorneys do not recognize, as they believe that the lives of young attorneys is all fun and games. The balance is a part of the struggle in addition to the challenges of career work, itself.

Taking a deeper look into the lives and practices of young attorneys would give a new prospective to the hard-working baby boomers. But, to take this look, they must first be as open as their young nemeses. Seeing the profession with an open mind and an eagerness to see it evolve is necessary for both sides. This approach will not only push the vocation to advance in its own right, but will close the divide created by age and innovation. Young lawyers have learned a wealth from their time-honored superiors; now it’s time the baby boomers let their babies teach a few of the lessons.

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