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Contempt for Gen Y: It’s everywhere—including law firms!

Monday, March 1, 2010
posted by Rita Handrich

While every upcoming generation is regarded as flawed by their elders, it seems Gen Y is seen especially negatively. A recent article at In These Times focuses on whether Millennials are cursed. According to sources cited, “everyone born since the mid-1970’s” is “coddled, overexposed and overindulged”. Having grown up with reality TV, they want to be instantly famous. Paradoxically, they also “reflect a new sense of existential aloneness and a desperate need to be recognized”. They are, in other words, narcissistic and disconnected. Or perhaps, they are torn between narcissism and empathy. The jury is out.

A blogger (Valley Girl with a Brain) who defines the Millennials as those born between 1980 and 1995 lets her peers know that she watched 60 Minutes and learned that “Mr. Rogers lied” and they really “aren’t that special” and “there is no perfect job”. And she worries about whether her decision to go back to graduate school was a really special bad decision.

So are Millennials truly that much more narcissistic and disconnected than the rest of us were at that age? David DiSalvo at True/Slant blog says there are not really strong differences between us. We are all embracing technology. We agree on ‘green’ technologies. We believe in diversity. Younger people are more open to increased security measures (with X’ers and Millennials saying “bring it on”!). We are all more accepting of gays and lesbians. We say we don’t much care for reality TV. We are, in truth, much more alike than different.

As we work in litigation advocacy, we hear a lot of negativity directed toward younger jurors and younger lawyers (especially new law school grads). Their work ethic (seen as poor by older attorneys) is blamed for their trouble in finding jobs. If they were not so lazy, the opinion seems to go, and if they did not want instant success, they wouldn’t have such a tough time finding work. It is, in short, their own fault they are unemployed. They have bad values.

Turns out that is likely untrue. A new editorial in the LA Times points out that from 2004 to 2008, the legal field grew less than 1% on average (and the same growth rate is predicted until 2016). The number of likely attorney positions opening per year is thus 30,000. US law schools are graduating 45,000 new JDs every year. Fully one-third of US law school graduates will likely not find employment as attorneys.

It isn’t ‘bad values’ for newly minted attorneys. It’s a bad job market. Perhaps instead of being critical, we should start looking at ways to be inclusive—all the way from enrolling a sensible number of students to law schools each year to finding room for talented graduates in traditional law jobs and non-traditional positions.

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