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Intergenerational Law Offices and Intergenerational Juries

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
posted by Rita Handrich

new generationsWe have a new article in The Jury Expert with insight and strategies for avoiding the dreaded “failure to communicate” and offering ideas on how to apply what we know about generational differences to your workplace, your courtroom presentations and, naturally, to voir dire. Why?

Our age and our generation shapes the lens through which we view the world. Not only because of the number and type of life experiences age presents, but also due to the key events that teach each generation what is important, and what needs to be considered in determining personal priorities and justice. Those experiences have patterns across the generations, but also differences. The marker events that shape our views can’t be transferred so easily. For those who grew up looking at black and white television images of the civil rights demonstrations in the 1960’s, the world is different than for those who grew up with iPods and text messaging. But how? Are we really that different? Can a workplace successfully accommodate the differences? Can juries come to a collaborative verdict with diverse age groups in the box?

The legal blawgosphere has been filled with anecdotal tales of what is termed “generational conflict” for years now. Based on conversations with our clients, contentious inter-generational interaction is not just out there “on the web”. It’s everywhere. We’ve written extensively on issues related to generations–both in the courtroom and in the office.

As litigation consultants, we hear senior partners aiming sharp criticism toward both younger jurors and younger lawyers (especially new law school graduates), and we see the associates roll their eyes and grit their teeth at the disrespect they feel from some partners. The work ethic of the younger attorneys (judged as inadequate 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. Or so it is said by many of their elders. Especially the subgroup of employers, supervisors, and–occasionally–parents. But is that accurate?

It turns out that it’s likely untrue. A recent 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.

What we’ve learned is that cross-generational communication is complicated. There isn’t an easy recipe for success, but there is a path toward effectiveness. There are principles and strategies to use both in successful intergenerational work teams as well as effective jury dynamics. In other words– they don’t all have to be just like you in order for things to go smoothly. Visit this new article at The Jury Expert site for both “how to” and “why to” strategies that will aid you in skillfully negotiating generational differences–in the courtroom and in the office.

Douglas L. Keene, & Rita R. Handrich (2013). Values, Priorities, and Decision-Making: Intergenerational Law Offices, Intergenerational Juries. The Jury Expert, 25 (1.)

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