Meeting in the Middle

Several years ago, when I was senior editor and the magazine was called Corporate Legal Times, I was in charge of finding internship candidates and supervising them once they were on board. It seemed easy enough. I worked closely with my contact at the university, he or she would send over one or two candidates, and after I determined the potential intern was up to the task, I put him to work.

Even though the difference in age between these students and me was only about 10 years, the difference in what I perceived to be "work ethic" was huge. Despite the fact our work hours were from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., interns would often stroll in around 9:30 without even considering explaining the 30-minute tardiness. On one occasion, my supervisor needed information on a project an intern had been working on, but when he approached the intern in the kitchen around noon with his question, the intern immediately responded, "I'm on my lunch break now. I'll get back to you later."

Then there was the infamous intern--the one I still talk about to this very day, her likeness and bizarre ways tattooed onto my memory. She encompassed everything that I saw wrong with these kids. Not only did she come in late and immediately roll her eyes if someone approached her during a break, but she would completely disappear during lunch with no warning or explanation when she returned. This wasn't much of an issue until I learned she was going into the back of our office where we had several empty cubes to take naps on the floor under desks.

But what surprised me about all these interns--even the napper--was that when they were at their desks working, they did a great job. These kids were bright, focused, hard workers. But they made it clear to me: They wanted to work on their terms, not mine.

As a Gen X-er, I found Gen Y workers difficult to adjust to--and eventually learned a meet-in-the-middle approach seemed to have to best result. But for some Baby Boomer bosses, this work style is totally foreign, and making accommodations is a difficult proposition.

In this month's cover story ("Mind the Gap"), InsideCounsel takes a look at how this new generation of lawyers is impacting legal departments, and what in-house counsel can do to effectively handle these valuable employees in the workplace.

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