BigLaw’s Young: You’ll Miss Them When They’re Gone
Mar. 2, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — The refrain is catchy, “how can I miss you if you won’t go away.” But let’s get real. You wouldn’t miss them anyway. And they’ve got nowhere else to go. From 2007 to 2010, a lost generation of young lawyers was born. They were the ones whose resumes you trashed, whose calls you never returned. They were so sad and desperate, real downers. Nobody likes downers.
The time frame for these graduates was most unfortunate, but hey, that’s life, right? Nobody promised them a job, no less a good job, upon graduation. And surely nobody told them to go to third tier toilet schools, and take out absurdly high loans for the privilege.
If anything, their bad choices not only doomed them, but confirmed that they deserved to be doomed. Who would mortgage their lives that way, and why, if they did, would you want them in your firm?
Since, then the “legal space” hasn’t gotten a whole lot better. But you already know that, with someone on the payroll called “chief marketing officer.” Who would have thought such a thing would happen, but then, profits per partner don’t grow on trees.
But that lost generation thing is a bit of a nagging problem. It’s not just that you’re not quite the callous oaf your spouse says you are, but that the old paradigm of raising each new class of entering associates to the point of tolerance, later competence, and finally, for those lucky few, acceptance into the ranks of rainmakers. Rainmakers, of course, matter, as they make up for the occasional unintended gap in what you bring in and what you get paid.
At their infancy, the gap isn’t really consequential. Everyone knows they’re just meat for the grinder, ending up as the sausage on billings for standing around with your coffee cup in their hand. But in time, they become a profit center as you leverage their human capital, until they are finally refined enough to speak with clients. And potential clients.
But these years will produce few rainmakers. And that means more than that they won’t be there to do your bidding, since there is always someone else to appreciate your need for heavy lifting of your briefcase. It means that they won’t be primed in your culture, prepared to speak the words that every general counsel longs to hear, develop the relationships upon which great law firms thrive.
That, unfortunately, is when they will most be missed.
Laterals, perhaps? Well, key to being the lost generation is that it’s not just you, not just your firm that ignored their existence, uttering “not my problem” as they were buried under the dead weight of lost opportunity. Everyone did. Hey, a rising tide lifts all boats. A falling tide, on the other hands, doesn’t. Your firm wasn’t that special.
Surely, someone has to care about these budding new lawyers, right? They have to be somewhere, at some firm, doing something, right? Well, ask the barista who poured your coffee this morning, with extra skim. Chances aren’t bad that they have a secondary degree, perhaps even in law. And they took the job in the corner storefront just to keep eating as you never read their resume or returned their email. Surely, someone has to care about them and give them a job one day.
But you didn’t care, and they were never hired. Some hung up their own shingle, becoming their own chief marketing officer by answering insipid questions on some lawyer Q&A site designed to avoid any need to pay for a lawyer or obtain accurate advice. Others sat there, folding cover letters and praying. The former is hungry. The latter pours coffee. Hey, after the first few years, they had to do something.
You will miss them. You do need them. Each year in the life of a firm, some will drop off the top end and more will be required to fill their offices and service their clients. One day, you will have a meeting to discuss the future of the Class of 2008 and realize that there is no Class of 2008. Or 2009. There will be no one with partner potential. There will be no one to do the hearing or trial. There will be no one to whom you can tell your stories of greatness. There will be no one because they are the lost generation.
But they never quite went away. They were right there, in front of you the whole time. They’re the ones with stooped shoulders from the debt services they still carry. And when you find yourself pondering the gap and how you ended up without anyone to fill it, remember that the kid who makes your double Venti latte didn’t plan to spend his or her life as a barista. They wanted to be lawyers. You just didn’t care until it touched your life.