DTCI: New associates and their different work ethic

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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