The Slackoisie Fight Back (Update)
Don't get me wrong. I truly liked Adrian, enjoyed meeting him and wish him the best in his new endeavor to teach lawyers to market on twitter, notwithstanding his being a lawyer for a total of 12 minutes and being successfully unemployed. This alone, is an indication of the trend. On the other hand, when it comes to being an expert on something twitterific, it's quite likely that 12 minutes is all you need. We are talking twitter here.
They have expertise that they believe to be worthy of the cash of others based upon nothing more than a belief in themselves. It's not like they've actually done much of anything, since they haven't had time to achieve success, but that doesn't deter them from seeing themselves as "experts". No longer must you achieve expertise. You are an expert if you say you are, if you decide you are. That's the Gen Y vision. Work has nothing to do with it. If I say so, then it is.
Adrian's retort to the Gen-Y panel is enlightening:
Partners, you don’t understand us. Let me tell you a little bit about our generation (both X and Y). We grew up in the suburbs. We came home from school to empty houses. You may have heard of us being referred to as the “latch-key” generation. We had two cars, and in most cases money to buy all the food and clothes we needed. We would have traded it all just to have parents that were around more. We don’t want to make the same mistakes our parents made.
We are not motivated by money. At least not as much as our parents were. The currency we are most interested in is lifestyle. Some of us are brilliant and hard working, but you have to dangle the right carrot in front of us.
While I'm sure this wasn't Adrian's point, the message is clear. The Slackoisie can't comprehend that there are any valid concerns other than themselves. We understand this. We realize that your entire world is all about you. What can we do for you? What can the world do for you? How can we make you happier?
It's fine to say that you don't want to make the mistakes of your parents, though therapy might also be indicated. There are a wealth of jobs out there in the world where expectations and demands of you are minimal, and they are otherwise so low paying and nasty that they're hard to fill. I'm sure these folks would be happy to accommodate your needs. But you don't get to be a lawyer, to take on "a responsibility to others" (a phrase that never finds its way into any thought in a Gen Y head), but only on your terms and when it's convenient to you.
The Gen Yers in the audience asserted that they could be reliable, but only if they deemed the reason they were expected to stay late or come in on the weekend worthy of their sacrifice. The GCs, in the meantime, talked about how 5 o'clock came around and they found themselves alone in their office, with the Gen Yers gone, finishing up the work that remained. The Gen Yers saw no reason why the work couldn't be done "whenever", and the fact that their bosses (a word used to compass the broad array of people who supposedly are in charge of the youngsters) told them to do it, but failed to adequately justify their orders, was facially insufficient. Their bosses were only their bosses if they decided they were worthy, and the decision was invariably ad hoc. "Want me on a Saturday? Then tell me why and I'll decide if your reason is good enough."
They believed they were reasonable. They believed they were hard working. They believed their work was competent. That no one else agreed with their self-assessments didn't seem to phase them in the slightest. They were right. No one else mattered. Me, me, me. That was all they needed to confidently assert that they were the cat's meow.
There was, however, one GC in the audience who had smoke on the roof but sided with the Slackoisie. He, he claimed, agreed that work-life balance mattered. "Would you care if your outside counsel wasn't as concerned with work-life balance" Dan Hull asked? "Yes, I would," he replied, "and your firm wouldn't be satisfactory." "And we wouldn't work for you, if your expectation was that we would elevate work-life balance over excellent legal representation," Hull concluded.
Being a lawyer is different. We have chosen a profession where we are responsible for the welfare of others. Would our touchy-feely GC be as willing to put work-life balance ahead of excellence if a critical deadline passed unmet, his corporation was bankrupted by a massive loss, because the lawyers paid to represent them had something better to do that day? That would never happen, you say. Probably not, but then it only has to happen once.
Adrian's post elicited a number of comments supporting him, with two notable common threads. First, not a single commenter was a successful lawyer. They were largely lawyers who didn't practice and found alternative careers, where they could say they were lawyers without having any lawyerly responsibility. They assumed that non-Gen Y lawyers (like Dan and I) had no lives and never stopped to "smell the roses," a common, though erroneous, assumption. We work hard, play hard, enjoy life to its fullest. We just don't do so at the expense of the people who put their trust in us. The Slackoisie can't comprehend this as being possible; pleasure is on their terms or can't possibly exist. Their myopic view is that everything in life is a zero sum game, rather than a spectrum of possibility. It's a common problem with children who see the world in black and white.
The second thread is that everyone else "must" change to accommodate them. No explanation is offered for this demand, other than the fact that they are here, they aren't changing and they aren't going to do it our way. They're wrong. Not every Gen Yer is a card-carrying member of the Slackoisie. Not every Gen Yer's world consists of only what makes them happy. There are millenials out there who are both capable of performing excellent work and desire to fulfill the responsibility they've undertaken. These will be the leaders of the future, while the whiners can sit in their parent's basement eating Cheetos and telling the world how wonderful and brilliant they are.
The day will come when the Slackoisie won't be able to feed off the hard work, success and efforts of those who came before them. What the heck are they going to do when each of them demands that the rest of them change their world to make their life easier? They're going to run out of people to whine to, and then there will be nobody left to make their Cheetos. And that's the problem with a world that's all about "me".
Update: Adrian has responded in a post entitled, So the Partners Think I’m a Slacker, explaining that we really aren't different, but just have our own understanding of work-life balance.
You are completely satisfied with your life-balance. So was Dan Hull. When I spoke with him after he asked, “You don’t think I know the names of my kids do you?” That’s not it at all.
You each have built great firms, provided great service to your clients, and apparently lived life to the fullest in the process.
We want to do the same, but for us “living life to the fullest” means something different.
Not long ago, the executive director of a law firm told me that her managing partner returned from a meeting of the women's bar association (can't recall the organization's exact name) in shock. He said a hypothetical situation had been presented about the staffing of a case. The decision to be made was between a male associate and a female associate who was pregnant and would give birth about the time the case was set for trial. The debate was long and spirited. What puzzled the managing partner was silence about the best interests of the client. The word "client" was never mentioned.
Does this story help to clarify things, Adrian? Or does it just sound pointless, since it isn't about what's good for the Slackoisie?
6/11/2009 5:00 PM
Greedy Associates wrote:
Over at Law21, Jordan Furlong has composed an elegy of sorts for the oft-scorned term "work-life balance." He suggests that, though the work-life balance movement was already receiving considerable criticism, the concept as such is a dead letter in the...