In the beginning, it’s all fun. After all, they call it social media for a reason, right? It’s supposed to be social, and social means you’re supposed to engage, interact, discuss and, on occasion, argue. There’s nothing wrong with arguing, except maybe to lawyers if we’re not being paid to do so.
And in the beginning it is. And was. But it’s not so much over time. The same arguments repeat themselves all the time, as each new person arrives on the internet and assumes that nobody, but nobody, ever thought of something before. This is bad enough, but it gets worse.
Then there is the Dunning-Kruger brigade, which can be as loud and persistent as it is ignorant, if not totally batshit crazy. And now, there is the added #metoo-ers, for whom every word is a matter of navigating a minefield of hurtz, lest one use banal language or express a basic thought that makes them explode in outrage.
Who needs this crap?
But one of the most peculiarly disheartening things for lawyers is to learn that the slackoisie are back. Not from places where they hid in the darkness and pretended they weren’t pathetic, like the Puddle, but from the ABA Journal.
Lauren Stiller Rikleen heard plenty of millennial bashing during her years as a partner at a Boston-area law firm—but she never bought it. “The stereotypes don’t match up with my experience as a lawyer and as a mother of two millennials,” she says. “I’ve never understood the constant negative refrain.”
Rikleen was so baffled by the disconnect, in fact, that she launched a second career geared toward helping different generations effectively work together.
She was “so baffled” that she left the law to figure out why her two millennial kids were part of a generation of lazy, entitled slackers? Sounds totally reasonable, and explains why, in their “work/life balance” section, they posted Millennial lawyers are forging their own paths—and it’s wrong to call them lazy. And what are the chances it would be presented using the insipid “myths” model?
MYTH NO. 1: THEY HAVE A SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
The biggest myth, Rikleen says, is the idea that millennials feel entitled. “What we’re seeing is the manifestation of a generation that was raised with an enormous degree of self-confidence,” she says. “My parents did not have the resources that we did as parents of millennials. We were constantly told how important it was to raise emotionally secure, healthy children.” This child-centric upbringing combined with youthful enthusiasm results in a confident, achievement-oriented attitude common among new workers. The downside? Older people who were not raised in the same way can find that confidence jarring. “Millennials have a comfort with speaking up that other generations mislabel as entitlement,” Rikleen says. Rather than rolling their eyes at so-called entitled behavior, employers should welcome the self-esteem they see in their young employees. A willingness to speak up can yield wonderful results that would never come from quietly accepting the status quo.
If you need an explanation as to why this is nonsensical gibberish, then you’re a lost cause. Not only has it already been done, ad nauseum, but it ought to be obvious to anyone with the capacity to reason. And that’s not why it’s quoted here.
We can’t, as a profession, continue to enable young lawyers to believe this crap. We can’t continue to empower them to substitute their self-serving feelings for the duty they’ve undertaken to represent the lives and fortunes of others. And we, by which I mean I, can’t continue to call bullshit every time a theoretically credible source rubs their tummies and tells them they’re not special, but rather “confident.”
It’s one thing for such gibberish to appear in a vacuous blog or twit by someone goofy and immature, but it’s entirely different when the kids get their tummy rubs from supposed grown-ups, from academics and, yes, from the ABA Journal. To argue again, and again, about the obligation that lawyers willingly assume to put their clients interests above their own wears thin.
The question now is whether we’ve lost the battle to save the profession. Have we?