I became a huge fan of Denver District Court Judge John Kane after hearing his interview with CharonQC, where he expressed disgust for the war on drugs, a remarkably frank view given his position. Rarely does a sitting judge express so clearly his views on a controversial subject, and I was amazed that Judge Kane had the fortitude to speak out. He won a permanent place in my heart and mind.
Stephanie West Allen of Idealawg told me about Judge Kane’s talk at his 50th law school reunion, Unlike Charon’s interview, it had nothing to do with issues of substantive law, but with our profession.
I want to spend a few serious minutes commenting on our common legacy. About what we have learned and can pass on. About what a lifetime as lawyers enables us to share with the next generation which graduated today.
These young people are called the Millennium Generation. They don’t have it easy. I’m not suggesting we did, but their is is a different world. Maybe that’s why the Millennials seem to differ so greatly from any generation that came before.
I wish I had a better grasp of the issues, but this newest generation seems to possess an entirely different set of values. They are more concerned with lifestyle than clients or causes. We thought hard work and perseverance would eventually lead to a partnership in a firm and it was an unusual event when a partner left one firm and joined another. That kind of dogged loyalty is a thing of the past. …
He goes on at some length, and it was worth the read to me. Whether it is to you, I can’t say. I don’t know whether Judge Kane was familiar with Jean Twenge’s study or the work of Theodore Dalrymple. The issues were significant enough to justify panels for in-house corporate counsel at the last two SuperConferences to address the problems that corporations are facing in dealing with young attorneys. Television news magazine 60 Minutes thought it worthy of a story, as did the New York Times Magazine. The list goes on.
A 50th law school reunion is significant in two respects. One, it’s quite a milestone, especially for someone as experienced and accomplished as Judge John Kane. Two, it means you’re old. One doesn’t reach their 50th reunion without getting old. There was a time when age and experience suggested that something might have been learned along the way, but that time was before the internet, the blawgosphere and twitter. There was a time when credibility was established by achievement, but on the internet, any twitter has the equivalent voice of a scholar, a judge, a man who has reached his 50th law school reunion. Indeed, it’s almost a disqualification to be so terribly old, as the young simply dismiss you, no explanation necessary.
This became sadly clear to me yesterday when a post, written a few days earlier, was suddenly discovered on twitter, and retwitted with approval by a number of the young bucks and buckettes. I read it and was unimpressed, not because it denied the problem but because it was grounded entirely in strawman arguments. I suppose this is why it was popular with the younger lawyers, as it fed into the very characteristics that give rise to the issue. By demonstrating no recognition of the real questions, it was an exercise in superficial sophistry. Its proponents didn’t see it that way, but like that it made them feel better about themselves.
The gist of the post, in defense of the Slackoisie, is that they are doing their best. This rings harsh. How many times did we tell our children to just do their best, that was all we could ask of them. Do your best and you’ll get a trophy. Do your best and we will be proud of you. Just do your best. When we said these words to our children, they made so much sense. When these words are spit back at us by our grown children, they are hard to hear. Don’t they understand the difference between efficiency and effectiveness? Don’t they realize that doing your best isn’t the same as achieving success? At some point, trying isn’t enough. Somebody has to take responsibility for actually doing.
Since the discussion spread across twitter, a medium ill-suited to thought or discussion from my perspective, but apparently the one of choice for others, In a post at The Trial Warrior, Antonin Pribetic offers some parameters to the discussion, sorely missing from the fuzzy thought of the twitter chatter. Of course, it’s hard to capture any comprehensive thought in 140 characters, but for many of the proponents, it’s all the room they need.
Antonin juxtaposes the word “Slackoisie” with a word tossed around only on twitter up to now, Dependsoisie. I don’t care for it because it’s meaningless and silly, created by a 140 character thinker to fend off the taint of the word “Slackoisie”. In another sense, however, it’s a great word to offer to counter the word “slackoisie”. Mindless, pointless, definitionless, vapid, knee-jerk and empty. How better to demonstrate what substitutes for thoughtfulness. (Update: Antonin has since twice changed the word so that it now appears:
Dependsoisie Boorishoisie Billuminati, the latter two of his own invention. I’m partial to Billuminati.)
There is room for discussion and debate about whether there are generational issues and problems, and how to address them, but it has yet to happen. Instead, it’s been superficial and thoughtless, whether by false arguments, ignorance of the real issues or simplistic denial and shifting blame. But that’s just my view. It seems that most of the fury on twitter feels otherwise. They’ve no need to learn much about a subject before reacting, responding, deciding. They know what they think, and that’s that.
I’ve yet to reach my 50th law school reunion. Still, I am beginning to feel as old as Judge Kane. My reliance on information before reaching a decision dates me terribly. No doubt if I were to accede to the fashionable, to pander to the things that make the young, the predominant voices online, feel good about themselves, they would like me better. It seems that so much of what happens online has become about being liked by others, regardless of anything else. The adoration of school girls melts even the hard heart of trial warhorses.
Yet I choose to side with an old man, Judge Kane. Though this will make me unpopular, perhaps even anathema, to the Slackoisie, it ironically won’t matter since if you ask them, they don’t exist. And they should know since they know more than anyone else, without any evidence to support their absolute certainty. Still, I would rather walk beside Judge John Kane than be popular.