Making room for the millennials

Marilyn Odendahl
June 3, 2015
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A rite of passage for every generation is being compared to the previous generations and getting criticized for not being as strong, as smart and as hardworking.

Millennials, the group of tech-toting, flip-flop sandal-loving adults born after 1980, have been the subject of eye-rolling. They have been stereotyped as expecting rewards just for participating and believing that spending long hours at the office is overrated.

However, legal professionals say that depiction as applied to their younger colleagues is wrong. They may work differently, taking full advantage of technology, but they are smart and productive.

Indeed, Victor Indiano of Indiano Law Group LLC described millennials as being “ultimately smarter” than the people of his generation. In addition, he said, they are well attuned to culture and racial differences, being careful to not offend others, and they are intelligent about maintaining a good work-life balance.

New economic reality

A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found millennials are the first generation in the modern era to have higher rates of poverty and unemployment and lower levels of wealth and personal income.

Millennials graduating from law school have suffered as the economy turned sour, according to the National Association for Law Placement. The employment rate for these graduates sunk to 84.5 percent in 2013, down from the all-time high of 91.9 percent in 2007.

newlawyers-graduationprocession-15col.jpg Notre Dame Law School Class of 2015, led by Assistant Dean Kevin O’Rear (left) and Associate Dean Ed Edmonds processes to graduation ceremonies May 16. The newest crop of millennial lawyers faces a tight job market but will find some changes designed to accommodate them in the profession.  (Photo courtesy of  Notre Dame Law School)

The economic reality is impacting how recent graduates approach their jobs. Shannon Williams, director of legal personnel and diversity at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, said the young associates being hired by the firm are hardworking, driven and very thankful to have the opportunity. They know not all of their classmates are employed so they take their work very seriously, she said.

On top of the pressure to get a job offer, law students have to comply with earlier and earlier deadlines for interviews. Large firms, like Barnes & Thornburg, interview for summer associate and first-year associate positions in August and make offers by mid-September. By the time classes start, students will know whether they will be spending the following summer at a big firm.

Some large firms also are paying more attention to finding the candidate who fits into the office’s culture, according to Kenny Tatum, assistant dean for career services at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. They have switched to doing behavioral-type interviews in an effort to find the lawyers who share the same values as the firm, would be comfortable with the clients and with whom the other attorneys at the firm would want to work.

tatum-kenny-mug Tatum

Most of the IU Maurer graduates go to small or mid-size firms, Tatum said. Those firms tend to interview later than their bigger counterparts and some wait until after the bar exam results come out before making an offer.

The Barnes attorneys enjoy having the young summer associates and new hires come into the firm, Williams said, because the attorneys learn from them. These millennials typically have a range of experiences, either having volunteered for an organization like Teach for America or worked in the private sector prior to going to law school.

That mirrors a trend appearing at Notre Dame Law School. The students who have been enrolling at the school since the lowest point of the Great Recession are clear as to why they want to be attorneys, said Kevin O’Rear, assistant dean for academic and student affairs. No longer are they choosing law school because they do not know what else to do.

Digital comfort

Larissa Koshatka is a millennial who remembers the stress that comes with having a J.D. but no job. When she graduated from IU Maurer in 2011, she was not able to find work as a lawyer until after she took the bar exam.

koshatka-larissa-mug Koshatka

Now she is an associate with the commercial litigation practice group at Quarles & Brady LLP in Indianapolis. On occasion, she has faced some skepticism and suspicion from older clients because of her age. She counters that attitude by showing them she can do her job. She concentrates on making sure she is delivering high-quality work and responds quickly to the clients’ inquires and concerns.

Indiano said, in his experience, millennial lawyers produce quality work. However, he noted, they do not seem to be as driven as previous generations, and because they tend to email, text and Tweet, they do not know how much can be accomplished in meeting people face-to-face.

Their comfort with technology may be coloring perception. Linden Barber, managing partner of Quarles & Brady’s Indianapolis office, said the younger attorneys are highly productive, and they are putting in some hours in nontraditional places. This generation is so comfortable in the digital world that they make use of mobile devices to work from home and the corner coffee shop along with the office.

barber-linden-mug Barber

Also, younger lawyers like to collaborate. Instead of being dog-eat-dog competitors, Barber said this group believes everyone can succeed together.

That instinct for working together was woven into the layout of the Quarles & Brady office. Pat Algiers, president of Chemistry in Place, has created many bright, open spaces where attorneys and clients can gather. The traditional corner offices have been replaced by collaborative areas, and all the attorneys work from offices of the same size. Also, the so-called “Indy Hub” in their office provides an area where the lawyers and staff can socialize and enjoy something to eat or a cup of coffee.

millennials-quarles--brady-14-15col.jpg Quarles & Brady partner Josh Fleming, left, and associate Larissa Koshatka sit in a space the firm designed for meetings and collaborative or solitary work by its attorneys. (Photo courtesy of  Tricia Shay Photography)

The open spaces show, despite the stereotyping, the millennial generation is rubbing off.

Quarles & Brady attorneys are grabbing their laptops and walking to the common areas to work, Barber said. Even some of the “older lawyers,” he said, enjoy the energy that comes from the spaces designed to foster collaboration.•


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  1. The voices of the prophets are more on blogs than subway walls these days, Dawn. Here is the voice of one calling out in the wilderness ... against a corrupted judiciary ... that remains corrupt a decade and a half later ... due to, so sadly, the acquiescence of good judges unwilling to shake the forest ... for fear that is not faith ..

  2. So I purchased a vehicle cash from the lot on West Washington in Feb 2017. Since then I found it the vehicle had been declared a total loss and had sat in a salvage yard due to fire. My title does not show any of that. I also have had to put thousands of dollars into repairs because it was not a solid vehicle like they stated. I need to find out how to contact the lawyers on this lawsuit.

  3. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  4. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  5. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.