In the last blog, I discussed a new book about the Millennial Generation in the workplace and the challenges to the older and more traditional workers. I turned the focus from workers in general to lawyers as professionals. I promised you examples of how some of the new generation values can conflict with your responsibilities as professionals.
For example, if you are in a financial services practice, your clients are bankers and financial institutions. Showing up at a meeting with finance clients in casual attire is probably not going to impress the 3-piece suit guys and the designer dress and stiletto girls. Yes, you have every right to assert your independent and non-conformist ways, but you always have to ask yourself whether it is the smart thing to do.
Another example involves personal time. You know that I am a big supporter of adequate personal time for an acceptable work-life balance. But, when the work requires it, professionals step up to the plate and do the professionally responsible thing. And that can involve working long hours and on weekends to meet the demands of the clients who pay huge monthly bills that keep the law firm doors open and the lights and HVAC operating to the comfort level of the lawyers. Quite simply, without clients, lawyers and law firms are nothing.
These examples illustrate a larger point. There is a difference between a lawyer and someone working out of a garage in a start-up organization. One difference is that some start-up guys and girls could make a lot more money than you ever will. And that certainly is one way of measuring success. But, the difference I am talking about has to do with professionalism. It is a privilege to be a lawyer — to be a member of The Bar and an Officer of the Court — and you need to remember that and respect it.
I appreciate the attitudes of the Millennials, and I talk about them in my new book, Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2015). I also understand that it is my generation that raised this new generation and is to some degree responsible for the issues that now challenge my generation. But, I draw the line in my willingness to compromise on issues of professionalism.
I once had a young woman lawyer tell me that she could not attend the public hearing that she and I had spent months prepping for because she had tickets to a concert by one of her favorite performers. The public hearing had been rescheduled for a date that conflicted with the concert date. Hearings and trials often are rescheduled, and a professional knows that and assumes the risk. However, I did not argue with her about it because she had shown such bad judgment that I no longer wanted her on my case. Her response was unacceptable. It was a concert, not a family death, a baptism, or a funeral.
Be a responsible Millennial. Be happy, be free, and advocate responsibly for some of the new attitudes that arguably can improve our profession in this 21st Century. But, be professional while you do it. Know when you are crossing the line.
Your supervisors surely will.