Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin: September 2013

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Ten Reasons Not to Attend the Solo Conf.

  1. You make money faster than you can spend it and do not need to be more profitable.
  2. Your clients appreciate all that you do, never miss an opportunity to thank you for your efforts, look forward to getting your bills, and pay them immediately.
  3. Even though you are a fairly new practitioner, you know everything about starting a solo practice.
  4. You have no difficulty with technology and every time you turn on your computer it works perfectly and rarely have any challenges.
  5. You know and understand all the Rules of Professional Responsibility and never worry about making a mistake.
  6. You never worry about getting new clients and get only the best clients.
  7. You are very comfortable with using new social media and how to use it without making mistakes.
  8. You have no interest in talking with other practitioners and getting referrals from other solo and small firm practitioners.
  9. You manage your time so efficiently that you never work nights or weekends and always have your work done well in advance.
  10. You plan to work until you drop and have no plans to ever retire.

If none of the above reasons apply to you then you need to attend the 14th Solo and Small Firm Conferenceat the BWI Hilton on Friday, November 15, 2013 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with an optional networking luncheon with other attendees from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Complete descriptions of sessions at www.msbasoloconference.org.  Space is limited. Price is reasonable. Information is priceless.

 “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words… and exceedingly impatient.”

Regardless of your age, doesn’t this sound like something you have thought about the generation that has come after yours? Don’t we all think that the next generation does not work as hard as we did? That they are not willing to pay their dues and do what it takes to get it done right?

Well, the above quote was written by the 8th century Greek poet Hesiod, so it seems as though the idea that the next generation is never as good as the current one is nothing new.

For the first time in history, the work place and business community will include four generations of workers all with completely different ways of working and communicating. I am firmly convinced that we must learn to work with all generations if our practices are to prosper. We need to understand how and why the different generations think the way they do – even if we do not agree with how they think – so that we can communicate effectively. Although solos and small firms have few, if any, employees, this workplace phenomenon and the conflicts it creates will still have a major impact on the future success of our practices. 

There have been numerous articles and charts listing the differences between the generations, and unless you live in a cave, you have heard all the differences. I am not going into those here, but there is a good chart and description at Multigenerational Characteristics (http://tinyurl.com/d6qkjay) from Bruce Mayhew Consulting. Just briefly, the generations are Traditionalists (1925-1945), Boomers (1946-64), Gen X (1965-77) and Gen Y/Millennials (1978-98). Most of the “conflict” will now be between the Boomers and the Gen Y and Gen X as many of the traditionalists are either leaving the practice or cutting back their hours. 

These generational differences occur when we need to hire an associate or legal staff, when we want to join forces with another practitioner or firm, or when we market our services to younger clients. We need to understand how the different generations think and why in order to make many of these transitions successful. Multigenerational issues affect much more than just working relationships in the firm. These differences can affect client relations, attracting new clients, and marketing efforts.  It can also affect jury selection and trial outcomes. 

According to the Mediation Training Institute International, over 65 percent of performance problems are a direct result of strained relationships between employees, not from deficits in individual employees’ skills or motivation.  And many of the causes of these strained relationships come from generational differences. A person’s outlook on life and work depends on when he or she was born. (www.mediationworks.com)   

Rather than focus on what makes us different and what those differences are, I think it is important to start to focus on what we have in common professionally. In the September/October, 2012 ABA Law Practice article, “A Multigenerational Approach to Engagement and Retention”, Phyllis Haserot, President of Practice Development Counsel, stated all generations rate the following factors as among the highest in their work lives:

  • Meaningful work
  • The opportunity to learn and grow as a professional, whether as an attorney, paralegal, in an administrative function (marketing, recruiting, professional development, IT, etc.), or as part of an attorney team
  • To feel appreciated and listened to
  • Financial compensation
  • Nonfinancial rewards, such as the time and ability to work some of the time in locations outside the office
  • Relief from intense stress
  • Regardless of which generation you are in, these are factors that we can all agree are important to success. The issue is not what we want but rather how we plan to get there. 
  • What can you do to turn these differences into advantages and opportunities? According to Mary E. Brady in an article entitled “Managing a Multigenerational Workforce,” there are commonalities:
  • Everyone wants to succeed and people want to feel valued. In most instances people do not like conflict although this might not be completely true in the legal profession. However, we do see some of this changing as more people look to mediation for ‘win-win’ situations.
  • All arrows must be pointing in the same direction. There must be common goals and people need to know what those goals are.  We all need clear communication.  “Because I said so” does not work with Gen X and Gen Y. 
  • No one wants to operate out of a sense of fear. You cannot bully people into good work. Collaboration must be encouraged. 

Much of the discussion about multigenerational firms is about how the “older” generations need to understand and learn from the “newer” generations, but I think that is short-sighted. It is just as important that the learning and understanding move in both directions – newer from older and older from newer. Each generation has much to offer, and those practitioners who understand this will be much more successful in handling the demands of running a practice. 

Some of the specific steps we can take to capitalize on the multi-generational workplace and business settings are: begin to network with those who are in a different generation; try to gain insight as to why they think the way they do; do not be judgmental; dialogue should be in both directions – older generations should listen to younger generations but those in younger generations should also listen to opinions of more experienced generations. 

Understand that communication is not about which is best – in person or electronically. It is about which is best in different settings. Generations should teach each other the value of various ways to communicate.

With people staying healthy longer and staying in the workforce longer, the multi-generational issues will only become more intense as there will soon be a fifth generation, Gen Z, added to the mix. If we are to succeed and prosper, we need to work in collaboration with all the generations. There is a lot to learn and share. Namaste.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin : September 2013

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