Lately, there has been a little battle brewing between those who have established themselves in the legal profession and those trying to make their mark. Somewhere along the way the word, “slackoisie” was created to identify those that work from Starbucks, or tweet more than the per day quota, or write about technology, or be younger than 35 (I am not completely sure of all of the qualifications). This in turn has been applied to similarly situated attorneys, usually jobless, trying to get some attention, either for their firm or their SEO practice. The question is thus posed, are these people lazy or really doing their best? Before we answer this, let’s just get the BS out of the way.
The greatest irony in the never ending assault on the Gen Y crowd is the use of Gen Y created Web 2.0 media to promulgate the hate. The sheer bulk of content from twitter to facebook to blogs is mind numbing. As is often asked of the slackoisie, “how do you have the time?” The most comical of the ironic is actually taking the time to post the definition of “slackoisie” on www.urbandictionary.com, a site dedicated to bored people, enamored with their own “creativity.” Take that slackers. Now as an overall statement, these critics are well accomplished, well respected members of the legal community. Moreover, I haven’t read anything or seen anything that suggests that they are not deserving of their accolades and stature. In fact, I, myself, often turn to their blogs, posts, etc. for inspiration or direction. Which is why I scratch my head when I hear them say say, “don’t settle” “follow your heart”, but don’t you dare do it from a Starbucks. It just seems so lazy and disingenuous to assume that these young people are lazy as matter based on who’s internet connection they use. Of course, the response will always be “I meant those people, not those people.” But such is the defense of all stereotypes. So lets be clear, many, dare I say most, of these so called slackers are doing their best trying to eek out a living the best that they can, using the resources they have available because location and tools do not define one’s productivity. I mean when was the last time you actually saw someone practicing law from a Starbucks or Barnes and Nobles (probably a better choice, free library and better coffee) anyway?
Now as for the question, are these people lazy? Sure a very small handful are, but most are working hard to get what they can out of their degree, their dreams, and their situations. Many are strapped with several thousand in student loans. Few have any sizable stockpiles of savings to fall back on. All have dreams of what they want to be, and most fear they will have to compromise these dreams to feel “comfortable.”
Now I have read many a sob story from the lawstacracy (there I coined it, go put it on urbandictionary, I don’t have the time), I suppose to celebrate their accomplishment while demeaning the struggles of others? I’m not sure. And guess what we all have one. If you don’t, you are probably a boring person to talk to. Having a sob story is like having an opinion . . . So why is there the assumption that these people are lazy? Might I suggest putting it into a sob story narrative:
You kids don’t understand, when I was starting out, I barely had a penny to my name. I had just graduated, passed the bar and I was $200k in the hole from student loans. I practically lived at Starbucks because I couldn’t afford internet at my apartment. I searched for jobs, I searched for clients, I searched for anything. I snuck duncan donuts coffee in a small thermas so I didn’t have to pay. I had one suit that I met all my clients with and did all my interviews. I couldn’t avoid drycleaning so the guys behind the counter let me hang my clothes above the coffee makers so I could steam my shirts. Sometimes I met clients at the library, at the park, or at the Starbucks. ………………………….
Why is this story any different? Its not. These people are not lazy. Sure there are a few that don’t give a hoot and sit on their hands, but most are doing their best to get by. What is different, is the job market. The current legal market is creation of the 80s and 90s cocaine broker model. Law firms more and more are becoming legal factories. In the Big Firms, production is the key, billable hour quotas are the only thing that matters. This has to eventually trickle down to the smaller firms as the culture of the legal profession changed. Now the expectation from the general public has reacted, and they want cheap fast legal services. For those that have established themselves, you can take a deep breath of relief as you do not have to deal with this except as an annoyance for your blog posts. However, those trying to start out are faced with this market for the substance of their living. Some other thoughts.
Yes there are jobs out there. Yes there are slackers out there. You will have to compromise. You will have to be humbled. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be creative, frugal, and continue to pursue your dream of being a lawyer. If that means you are going to work out of the trunk of your car or a Starbucks or a fabulous office in Brickell, then so be it.
Check out this story from NPR for more thoughts.