Ready or not, there is a new generation of lawyers headed your way. Since “two point zero” is all the buzz these days, we can call this group “Attorney 2.0,” if you like. But before the whole “two point zero” craze, there was the “Generation __” craze. It started with Generation X (attribute whatever characteristics you like), the term that increased in popularity in the 1990s.
Then came Generation Y, those born between 1983 and 1997 (some define Gen Y as “current 13 to 30 year-olds”). However you define them, some Gen Y’ers are now young adults and some of those young adults are lawyers – and they are working at your law firm. Right now.
“So what?” you may ask. Here’s the thing: Generation Y is different because they grew up on the Web. In a ReadWriteWeb piece called Why Gen Y is Going to Change the Web, Sarah Perez discusses some of these imminent changes. As Perez puts it, Gen Y is “the most digitally active generation yet, having been born plugged in.” Here is the key take-away for those legal KM folks among us:
Work Tools Need to Mirror Web Tools: Gen Y will drive adoption of “Enterprise 2.0” products and services. Gen Y in the workplace will not just want, but expect their company to provide them with tools that mirror those they use in their personal lives. If socializing on Facebook helps them get a sale, then they’re not going to understand why they can’t use it at work. For more buckled down companies, if workers aren’t provided with the tools they want, they’re going to be savvy enough to go around I.T.’s back and get their own.
* Check out the SlideShare presentation, The Gen Y Guide to Web 2.0 @ Work, below.
For all of us struggling over the issue of whether knowledge management is about technology or culture, well, when talking about Gen Y lawyers, the answer is “yes.” In other words, for the Attorney 2.0 set, technology is their culture. Sharing, collaboration, social networking, tagging, and voting (and all of that other web 2.0 / enterprise 2.0 stuff) is their culture. [See Doug Cornelius’ post about his survey of summer associates’ use of social networking websites]. These lawyers grew up on the Web. They are accustomed to changes; rapid changes. They roll with it and look forward to it. They are not “change averse” like the generations before them.
Will Gen Y lawyers tag legal documents in your DMS? You bet. Will they comment on a blog post or contribute to a wiki? Definitely. Will they subscribe to RSS feeds? Absolutely. Will all of this replace the monthly litigation department meeting where people share knowledge and collaborate face-to-face? Of course not.
Generation Y lawyers organize their digital lives with the tools of the web (Delicious, Digg, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google Reader, Newsvine, Netvibes, etc.). They will want to do the same at work because it will help them be more productive. Isn’t that one of the goals of knowledge management?
For the Attorney 2.0 Generation, this is not innovation: it’s a no brainer.
LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms