Mind the Gap: Generation Y Attorneys Enter the Workplace

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"Into the workplace come these two generations who say, 'I'm different. I don't want what you have. I'm going to define success differently,'" Marston says.

That definition, he says, puts a greater emphasis on work-life balance. For young in-house attorneys, work-life balance doesn't necessarily equate to fewer hours on the job--but it does often mean a predictable workflow and greater flexibility as to where or when their work gets done. Morelli says he was initially taken aback by the idea of his attorneys working at Starbucks on the weekend or drafting a contract while watching "The Daily Show" in the evening. But soon he realized that by granting them flexibility, they rewarded him with excellent work.

"This is a generation that is less eager to just sit down and pay their dues and more eager to say, 'Well, why is this going to help me? Where does this belong in the big picture?'" Marston says. "And that's causing some senior attorneys a little bit of frustration. They want to say, 'It will all become clear in time. Just do it.'"

Many Gen Y attorneys are looking in-house for what they see as an opportunity to pursue significant projects right away, says Vanessa Vidal, president of ESQ Recruiting. They also see more opportunities for quicker recognition than at law firms.

Because ArcelorMittal doesn't have a formal training program for young attorneys, General Counsel Paul Liebenson says meeting Gen Y's mentoring wants has been one of the biggest challenges. While the tighter resources of an in-house legal department can make mentorship tough, he says it's worth it.

"There's no magic solution," Liebenson says. "It's just making it a priority. And it's a tribute to the young attorneys that they seek out that mentoring instead of attempting to do things on their own because they're afraid to show they don't know something."

When he first joined JetBlue, Rossi says he relied a lot on e-mail--until a senior attorney told him that's not how JetBlue's legal department works. One of the team's goals is to have a friendly, accessible relationship with clients, which he learned could be fostered more effectively through face-to-face or phone contact than via the Internet. And he has learned that at times, in-person communication actually makes work go faster.

"It can take awhile to draw distinctions and figure out when it's most appropriate to pick up the phone," he says. "Sometimes you can fix a problem by talking about it on the phone for five minutes instead of sending five e-mails."

Associate Editor

Lauren Williamson

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