Generation X, Y, & ME in Your Law Firm (from ILTA) | Knowledge Management

I’m very interested in how different generations of lawyers and legal staff will affect the way law firms will operate.  See Attorney 2.0 – Generation Y in Your Law Firm.   Here’s my coverage of a related ILTA program called Baby Boomers and Generation X and Generation Y – Addressing Generation Gaps in Culture and Technology in the Legal Industry. 

ILTA – August 28, 2008 2:00 pm

These are my notes from the ILTA program [Since I am taking paper-free notes and because there is free Wi-Fi here, I thought that I’d add the notes to the blog.  Disclaimer: my notes are rough, so forgive the typos.]

From ILTA:

Title: Baby Boomers and Generation X and Generation Y – Addressing Generation Gaps in Culture and Technology in the Legal Industry  – slides
Description: Are law firms dealing with the reality that there are real differences in how the various generations perceive the world, the expectations they have around technology and mobility, and how they relate to each other and member of different generations?  With most law firms being run by Boomers, we need to consider the issues around the fact that most new attorneys and staff are members of gen-X, gen-Y or gen-ME.
Speaker(s): Mark Cameron Willis – Kutak Rock LLP
Matthew Willis – IKON Office Solutions, Inc.
Learning Objectives: Learn new approaches to management.

LawyerKM’s Notes:

Today’s Emerging Law Firm

  • Many firms have been involved in mergers and acquisitions
    Firms are operating like larger companies (they have c-level people)
    There is a global practice
    Competition for institutional clients
    multi-generational workplace

Generation Characteristics


  • Characteristics:
    64+ years old (5% of firm population)
    traditional family values
    loyalty to firm
    strong work ethic
  • Legal practice:
    not tech savvy
    prefer phone vs email
    traditional legal practice – value of relationships
  • Value to Firm:
    loyal clients
    relatinships in community / practice areas
    good mentors (valued by younger generations)
  • Myths / perceptions:
    perception – that this group has stopped learning
    reality – they have vast knowledge

Baby Boomer

  • Characteristics:
    late 40-60’s (70% of law firm partners)
    they surpassed the former generation many ways (e.g., first to go to college, etc.)
    work your way up mentality
    the “me generation” – affluent
  • Legal practice:
    loyal clients
    traditional legal practice, but they embrace change dictated by their clients
    client-service oriented
  • Value to Firm:
    managing the firm
    transition from traditional practice
    these people run the firm
  • Myths / perceptions:
    perception – they are obsolete
    reality – they run the firm
    perception – work-a-holic
    reality – hard workers

Generation X

  • Characteristics:
    30s / 40s year old
    saw 50% divorce rate growing up
    7-8 career changes
    consider themselves as “free agents”
  • Legal practice:
    traditional legal training- research and writing
    they question traditional firm policies
    first generation to adopt technology advances (e.g., Westlaw and Lexis)
  • Value to Firm:
    money makers
    control day-to-day relationship with clients
    they embrace technology
  • Myths / perceptions:
    perception – self-centered (e.g., salary hikes)
    reality – family-centered
    perception – sense of entitlement
    reality – unwilling to sacrifice personal life for firm
    perception – “slackers”
    reality – maybe, but positive response to challenges

Generation Y

  • Characteristics and values:
    late 20s year olds
    quality of life
    brought up on technology in school and in social networks
    “trophy generation” – they need a reward for what they’ve done
  • Legal practice:
    technology is the backbone of practice
    few strong client relatinships
    pressure to bill hours
  • Value to Firm:
    fresh insight
    resourceful and adaptable
    teaching boomers and traditionalists
    access to information (e.g., Findlaw)
  • Myths / perceptions:
    perception – undisciplined
    reality – they actually crave structure
    perception – they challenge authority
    reality – they crave to learn from their elders
    perception – disrespectful
    reality – they tend to treat everyone as equals

Firms Adjusting to the generation gaps:
Check out the matrix in the slides that show differences
Communications: face-to-face > telephone > email> email/text/sms
Bridging the generation gap

offices are designed to attract and keep employees (i.e., Google style vs. Stuffy NYC firm style)
quality of life – some firms have QoL committees
feedback that matches the generational needs
firm evaluations (the employee can offer reverse feedback)
meaningful work
pro bono opportunities

Education and training (training up and down, promoting new technology – wikis, web hosting, webinars, virtual conferneces)
Showed Common Craft’s Wikis in Plain English – the audience actually applauded this video – they loved it.
Technology committee – involving tech end users in tech decisions; comparing tech with corporate clients

Marketing: the new way of marketing involves blogs

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someone
If you liked it, please share it.

3 thoughts on “Generation X, Y, & ME in Your Law Firm (from ILTA) | Knowledge Management

  • August 29, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Hey LawyerKM–

    Thanks for the interesting summary of myths vs. reality for different generations of workers.

    Was there any discussion of “Millenials”? I see these as people who have grown up with the internet, they are *very* familiar with using technology and searching/navigating, they are like Gen. Y, but need even more to be engaged at work, and have little understanding of traditional bureaucracies.


  • August 29, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Hey David,

    They didn’t focus on millennials – someone asked about those younger than Gen Y and the speakers sort of lumped them in with Gen Y.

    Good seeing you at ILTA.


  • September 1, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    muy interesante

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.