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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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The Gen-Y Albatross

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Once a year, just before the OCI season heats up, the 2Ls at UHLC are herded into a classroom, hosed off and made presentable and treated to a presentation by Mary Crane.  Mary Crane believes we are part of the "T-Ball Generation"; among other things this means we:

  • wear questionable attire into the office
  • don’t care when someone suggests we are inappropriately dressed
  • schedule work assignments around opportunities to connect with friends and families
  • ignore the existence of any sort of hierarchy in our respective workplaces
  • have parents who phone HR any time we don’t receive the performance evaluation or merit pay raise our parents think we are due

In other words we’re spoiled, inconsiderate, self-obsessed dilettantes who having become accustomed to an inflated sense of self-worth and exceptionalism now demand recognition for it despite all evidence to the contrary. In my favorite part of this yearly ritual, Mary informs us of the shocking revelation that body piercings, visible tattoos and exotic dye-jobs are not acceptable in most large law firms. Mary honestly believes her advice is all too necessary, that real law students actually do these things, that we must therefore be reminded to do things like remove our iPod earbuds when talking to senior partners. Normally, I would not begrudge Mary her shtick. If there were people out there whom evolution has overlooked who genuinely learn and benefit from this type of advice, so be it. Who am I to judge?

I should have known better. Horrifyingly, more than once in the last few weeks I’ve been interviewed by partners who have referred vaguely to reports that "my generation" is "different." They been lead to believe that we have an insatiable appetite for text-messaging each other throughout the day and though we might appear to be doing some research on WestLaw, we’re surreptitiously updating our Facebook profiles. For some reason we have to be spoken to like mental patients for fear of damaging our delicate psyches. Mary recommends developing a list of open-ended, probing, linked, evaluative questions before providing us feedback. I’m starting to get a glimpse into this mindset from the 60 Minutes segment, The "Millennials" Are Coming. The scariest part is that everyone seems to believe that this behavior should not only be tolerated but accommodated.

So I have something to ask senior partners of a certain generation – did you spend your law school career popping shrooms in the law review basement, grooving to the Grateful Dead, rapping about "The Man" and tie-dying your dashikis? No, of course not, because that’s a ridiculous stereotype conjured by the media to scare old people.

I grew up with plenty of millenials but very few of them made their way to law school or stayed very long if they did. Most of my classmates work long hard hours to get to this point. I am in constant amazement of their talent and perseverance. They’re no different than any other generation of young lawyers, imbued with a recognition of the duties as well as the rewards of the profession. They’ll make you proud if you give them the opportunity.

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Category: advice to law students, law school, legal careers

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6 Responses

  1. Ana says:

    I dunno, I’d give people of your generation a lot more credit if they did fit the stereotype…same for the shroom-popping partner.

  2. Ana says:

    Conjured up by the media? Who are you hanging out with, my friend? You need to get out more. Obviously, you should have joined PT-Law Mom and me tonight. There’s a whole world out there.

  3. shg says:

    “did you spend your law school career popping shrooms in the law review basement, grooving to the Grateful Dead, rapping about “The Man” and tie-dying your dashikis? No, of course not, because that’s a ridiculous stereotype conjured by the media to scare old people.”

    Heheheh, yerp, we never really did any of that, man. Never. Truckin’, like the doodahh man, keep truckin…

  4. lukegilman says:

    Ana, I should have joined y’all, though I’m afraid I may not be able to handle it. ;-)

    Scott, well, I guess stereotypes have to come from somewhere.

    Maybe these Gen-Y people do exist, but what the hell would make them want to go to law school or even more bizarrely, work at a firm? Shouldn’t they be writing the next great American novel or something?

  5. Laurie says:

    The problem comes from the ones that actually fit the stereotype. Before coming to law school, I taught science in college to juniors and seniors. I had parents call me (helicopter parents), many students texting the entire class (these were smaller classes), and students attempting to be much more informal with me than I was comfortable with, mainly through telling me their entire life story while calling me by my first name on the first day and equating their anecdotal experiences as research (I had a student say “Yeah, I did some soil work in my backyard for my garden, so I completely agree with your work”). I was not that much older than these students, but I couldn’t stand the information sharing and informality.

    In law school, I continue to see this behavior but with a much smaller percentage of the students. And these students learn rather quickly to roll their sleeves down around attorneys (cover the tats, which I don’t see any problem with, just cover them and don’t have them on your face like a friend of mine), stop texting when speaking with other people (well, there are still a few that don’t do this one), and business attire means business attire, not whatever they feel like business attire should be (I actually had to ask on this one). It’s simply a learning process every generation has to go through because their ideas of the workplace won’t be immediately accepted.

    But I can’t wait until Millenials take over the market place. I desperately want to wear jeans to work, like I used to.

  6. PT-LawMom says:

    The BigLaw partners I used to work for definitely bought into the stereotype. You should have heard the post-OCI comments. Of course there were some pretty clueless Harvard/Stanford law students out there. I think there’s a difference between hard-working state school law students and Ivy law students. Sure, we all work hard. But the Ivy kids have much less pressure going into the interview process and act accordingly.

    You definitely should have joined us. Next time? Ana’s going to let us into the inner sanctum and BC is bringing queso. I promise to keep my “random thoughts” to a minimum. You know I can see the pages you’re looking at on my stat tracker. I may just blush next time I see you in person… ;) Geez.

    P.S. You owe me an e-mail.

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