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DTCI: New associates and their different work ethic

From DTCI
July 3, 2013
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dtci-mortimer-reneeOnce again, I have been asked to write an article on “any topic.” Last year, I told you the story of a plaintiff’s lawyer who gave me the inspiration to encourage all of you to treat each other with respect as opposed to roughness. How is that going? I hope well.

This year, I have to say, I was having trouble with the “any topic” thing again. Then, I was sitting with a group of plaintiff and defense lawyers during a break in a deposition in a particularly big case (so there were a lot of us), and the topic was new associates. One of the lawyers was complaining about “the work ethic” of associates these days, and how “no one stays late anymore.” Another lawyer was complaining about the “work product” and “Is it really that hard to get the client’s name spelled correctly when she gives me the draft of a letter to the client?” And finally another lawyer was talking about “this whole Millennial thing.” As the break ended, everyone agreed that today’s associates are far different from us “back in the day.”

Let me go on record as saying that I do not think that is such a bad thing. When I left the discussion, I was conflicted. I understood the frustration of my colleagues, but I also truly respected the choices of the new associates with whom I have dealt.

Look, I am not going to lie. When I was a new associate, I made damn sure that I was at the office before the partner. I left after he left. I gave up vacations, family events and many, many of my kids’ activities to make sure the brief was done on time and done well. The other lawyers in the break during the deposition did the same thing. I think that part of the frustration in the room was that we “older lawyers” are jealous – at least I am – of the ability of the new associate to do all the things we missed, and with lap tops, Blackberrys and so forth, still get the work done. I know our firm encourages it.

However, to the new associate, if we promise to not freak out when you are listening to your headphones when we walk in your office, and if we promise to not raise our eyebrows when you work from home, there are things we do expect from you. We have all spent a great deal of time away from our families building client relationships and attempting to separate ourselves from the stiff competition we have in other law firms, plaintiff and defense. While we get that you do not want to be at the office 24/7 (we don’t either), we do expect that when you are doing the work, you will pay attention to detail and get the client’s name spelled right. We expect that you will think things through and not do something on a case just for the sake of doing it. We promise to spend time teaching you how to work through your first year of practice, which we all know can be truly rough, if you promise to spend time trying to learn from us.

I am glad that the new associates of this generation are different. However, I challenge all associates to still get the brief done on time and well – only it is now OK to do it from the stands while you watch your kids play ball.•

__________

Ms. Mortimer is a partner in Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP and is a director of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. IF the Right to Vote is indeed a Right, then it is a RIGHT. That is the same for ALL eligible and properly registered voters. And this is, being able to cast one's vote - until the minute before the polls close in one's assigned precinct. NOT days before by absentee ballot, and NOT 9 miles from one's house (where it might be a burden to get to in time). I personally wait until the last minute to get in line. Because you never know what happens. THAT is my right, and that is Mr. Valenti's. If it is truly so horrible to let him on school grounds (exactly how many children are harmed by those required to register, on school grounds, on election day - seriously!), then move the polling place to a different location. For ALL voters in that precinct. Problem solved.

  2. "associates are becoming more mercenary. The path to partnership has become longer and more difficult so they are chasing short-term gains like high compensation." GOOD FOR THEM! HELL THERE OUGHT TO BE A UNION!

  3. Let's be honest. A glut of lawyers out there, because law schools have overproduced them. Law schools dont care, and big law loves it. So the firms can afford to underpay them. Typical capitalist situation. Wages have grown slowly for entry level lawyers the past 25 years it seems. Just like the rest of our economy. Might as well become a welder. Oh and the big money is mostly reserved for those who can log huge hours and will cut corners to get things handled. More capitalist joy. So the answer coming from the experts is to "capitalize" more competition from nonlawyers, and robots. ie "expert systems." One even hears talk of "offshoring" some legal work. thus undercutting the workers even more. And they wonder why people have been pulling for Bernie and Trump. Hello fools, it's not just the "working class" it's the overly educated suffering too.

  4. And with a whimpering hissy fit the charade came to an end ... http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2016/07/27/all-charges-dropped-against-all-remaining-officers-in-freddie-gray-case/ WHISTLEBLOWERS are needed more than ever in a time such as this ... when politics trump justice and emotions trump reason. Blue Lives Matter.

  5. "pedigree"? I never knew that in order to become a successful or, for that matter, a talented attorney, one needs to have come from good stock. What should raise eyebrows even more than the starting associates' pay at this firm (and ones like it) is the belief systems they subscribe to re who is and isn't "fit" to practice law with them. Incredible the arrogance that exists throughout the practice of law in this country, especially at firms like this one.

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