Who is Wise? The One Who Learns from All
Heather Bradley, CPCC, and Miriam Bamberger Grogan, CPCC, are the co-founders of The Flourishing Company, a workplace consulting firm which changes the way people experience work. They are the authors of Judge For Yourself: Clarity, Choice, and Action in Your Legal Career, published by the American Bar Association in cooperation with MCCA®. For additional information, visit: www.TheFlourishingCompany.com.
If you had the opportunity to learn how to improve your recruitment and retention efforts or innovate the service you provide your clients, would you take it? Who wouldn't? Yet many lawyers resist tapping into information that is often right in front of them. The source? The junior attorneys on staff.
Some seasoned attorneys sneer at the idea of learning from newer attorneys, insisting experience is the best teacher and questioning what they could learn from newcomers to the profession. The answer? Perhaps, quite a lot.
Improving Recruitment and Retention Efforts
When was the last time you were recruited? How long has it been since you chose where to work? Organizations change over time, and your experience and information may be dated.
Because they have recently gone through the recruitment process, newly minted attorneys are uniquely positioned to give you feedback about their experience and the factors that influenced their decision to select your offer. And they are already sharing it with one another. Whether or not you choose to hear it, your organization's reputation is a hot topic in the talent market.
The more you understand what is important to these up-and-coming attorneys and what other organizations are doing, the more likely you are to create a culture in which they want to stay. Veteran attorneys observe that younger attorneys are more in touch with how programs are really working. They can tell you if people buy into the message senior attorneys think is being sent.
A Word for Newer Attorneys…
So the general counsel or senior partner has just asked your opinion. What do you do?
Show them you have a valid contribution to make:
- Voice your opinions confidently (but not arrogantly) and show how you formed them.
- Ground your response in supporting facts.
- If you don't know the answer, say so.
- When you are asked to keep something confidential, do it, even if you do not think it is a big deal. Betraying trust can be an irreparable mistake.
- Know when to stop. Once the more senior attorney has made a decision, accept it and move on.
Contemporary Customer Service
Innovative Use of Technology
Recently graduated attorneys are likely to be technically sophisticated. They know a world of instant, electronic information: the internet, instant messaging, blogs, PDAs, text messaging, and more. These tools are standard equipment for younger attorneys, who use them to find new ways of performing time-sensitive tasks.
"Experienced attorneys can learn how to take advantage of new ways of conducting their work," says Gihan Fernando, dean of career services at the Georgetown University Law Center. "Technology has taught young people to approach problems in different ways than we did even a few years ago. As a result, new attorneys can research matters more effectively, translating into an enormous benefit to clients."
As newcomers, young attorneys' innocent questions about institutional processes can open the door for system improvements leading to better client service. According to those interviewed, seasoned attorneys who are new to an organization sometimes don't think to ask why things are done in a certain way.
The Practice of Law
Can experienced attorneys really learn from younger attorneys? Two seasoned attorneys say junior attorneys may have valuable contributions that translate into better client service.
"After about 10 years as a partner, I was on a team with two associates," says Jim Sandman, senior partner, Arnold & Porter LLP, and president-elect, District of Columbia Bar Association. "We were all so very different from one another, and we were a much better team for our differences. Of course, some of their suggestions needed polishing, but the ideas they proposed—which I would never have thought of on my own—strengthened our case."
"Younger attorneys have different cultural reference points that are invaluable," adds Douglas B. Mishkin, a partner with Patton Boggs, LLP. "You never know what the judge or jury is attuned to. The client is entitled to the best everyone on the team has to offer."
The three steps of The Flourishing Process™ can help you become more comfortable with the idea of tapping into the wisdom of your newer attorneys.
The Flourishing Process™