LATEST POST: Baby Boom/Millennial Generation Gap

Contributor: Fred Egler, Esq.
Senior Counsel at Reed Smith LLP in Pittsburgh, fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Past President of the Allegheny County Bar Association, and was the Editor-In-Chief of the Pittsburgh Legal Journal for 15 years.

Lawyers of the baby boom generation often find it hard to manage (or, in some cases, even communicate with) their younger millennial colleagues.  Stereotypes depicting millennials as unmotivated slackers reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the external forces that have shaped these intergenerational conflicts in attitudes toward the practice of law.

Conflict between young and old is hardly a new phenomenon. Most baby boomers remember the “generation gap” and slogans like “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”  Fear, distrust, and, most of all, poor communication fueled these attitudes then and now.  Baby boomers entered the practice of law in an era of unprecedented expansion that will probably never be repeated.  Millennials, on the other hand, see both their opportunities and their job experiences differently because of fundamental changes in the economics and  practice of law.

Surveys suggest that a substantial majority of millennial lawyers have no interest in becoming partner, and that an even larger majority of senior lawyers believe this about their young colleagues too.  One recent survey found that fully two-thirds of millennial lawyers in large law firms said that they would consider a job with fewer hours if it meant less pay.  They also rated factors like firm culture and work-life balance higher compensation when considering a job offer.

Millennial lawyers do not have a congenital fear of hard work.  What they crave is training, guidance, and feedback, as opposed to being slotted into routine and monotonous tasks (Think e-discovery reviews).  Most disagree with the statement that “Law school prepared me to practice law.”  Yet almost the same percentage agreed that “The more I work, the more I learn.”

Partners and managing attorneys need to know and understand these attitudes of their millennial colleagues in order to effectively develop their careers and maximize their worth to the firm.  Linking compensation directly to billable hours will not motivate most young lawyers, and is likely to increase attrition and reduce the quality of their work.  Training, attention, and feedback are critical to today’s partner-associate relationships.  To many senior lawyers, this care and feeding of associates may seem like coddling and even a waste of time. But a more human touch with young lawyers will yield benefits, both in terms of value and culture, to almost any law firm.

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Firm Commitment

Contributor: Diane Hauser, Esq.
Diane Hauser is an attorney at Paisner Litvin, LLP (www.paisnerlitvin.com). Ms. Hauser focuses her practice exclusively
on labor and employment law, including collective bargaining negotiations, labor arbitrations, unfair labor practice proceedings, EEO agency proceedings, FMLA, Title VII, ADA and wage and hour issues. Ms. Hauser is a magna cum laude graduate of Villanova School of Law, where she was an associate editor of the Villanova Law Review. She holds a bachelors degree from the University of Virginia. Ms. Hauser is a member of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bars.

FIRM COMMITMENT
In November 2008, my two and a half year old son, Matthew, was diagnosed with stage four Burkitt’s Lymphoma. By the time it was discovered, the disease had spread to not only his lymph node system, but also his bone marrow and spinal fluid. Needless to say, this diagnosis was devastating news to my entire family, including me, my husband Bill, and our four year old son, Will.

At the time of Matthew’s diagnosis, I was working part time at a small law firm, Paisner Litvin, LLP, as a labor and employment law attorney. I joined Paisner Litvin, after working in-house for several years, in order to spend more time with my young children.  However, after Matthew was diagnosed, I was worried that I would not be able to maintain even a part-time schedule, as my husband and I were told that Matthew would require months of intensive chemotherapy, most of which would be in-patient at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  I didn’t know how I was going to manage Matthew’s treatment, take care of our older son Will, and also be able to work. I also was not sure how my firm would respond to my situation, given the challenges I would be facing.

Fortunately for me, Paisner Litvin handled the situation wonderfully.  They were not only supportive, but they gave me the flexibility to work when, where and how much I wanted during the period of Matthew’s treatment.  I was able to work at home, and even at the hospital, and had the ability to turn down work when it conflicted with Matthew’s treatment.  This flexibility gave me the ability to keep working during the entire period of Matthew’s treatment. The firm continued to give me this flexibility even after Matthew’s treatment was completed (successfully!), as his treatment caused some long term side effects, which – to this day – require many doctor’s appointments and procedures, including the need for a three hour IV infusion every four weeks, in order to boost his immune system.

The manner in which Paisner Litvin handled my situation both during and after Matthew’s treatment garnered tremendous amounts of gratitude and loyalty, which cannot be overstated.  In 2014, I became a full-time partner with the firm.  I never would have considered taking on this full-time role with the firm, had I not had the confidence that the firm would be supportive of my situation and allow me the flexibility that I needed to manage a full-time work load and also take care of my personal situation.  Since joining the firm as a full-time partner in 2014, I have been presented with several other job opportunities. As tempting as some of them have been, I have stayed with the firm because I appreciate all that the firm has done for me, and because I have the confidence that I will be able to balance my personal and work load during the years to come, regardless of the challenges that face me.

Despite his side effects, Matthew is now a happy, healthy eleven year old boy. I am eternally grateful that I am able to be there for him and his brother as a mom, and also be able to manage a full-time labor and employment law practice.  I believe that my situation has benefited not just me and my family, but my firm as well, as the firm has the benefit of a loyal and dedicated attorney who appreciates all that has been done for her and who plans on sticking around for the long term.

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All That Jazz… & More!

Contributor: Jessica Lee
Jessica Lee is an American jazz & blues vocalist, songwriter (ASCAP) and recording artist, born in Manassas, VA. Lee grew up in Franklin, PA, studying classical piano since the age of 5. During college, her interest in jazz blossomed after a chance encounter with Paul Jeffrey, Director of Jazz Studies, Duke University, with whom she studied jazz history and improvisation and who encouraged her to begin her life-long study of jazz piano, vocals and improvisation. Jessica graduated from Duke University (1991) where she continued her study and performance of music, piano, creative writing and voice, and subsequently graduated from Duke University School of Law (1994) where she studied business and entertainment law.
Jazz Artist Entrepreneur (www.jessicaleejazz.com) & Social Entrepreneur (www.pghgateways.org)

Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I have played piano and sung since age five, and I always knew that I wanted to make music part of my career path if at all possible.  While studying music and creative writing at Duke University, I had the chance to have a long discussion with an Entertainment Law Professor at Duke Law School who advised me to consider attending law school as a way of learning about contracts, copyrights and more – all of which would be important in my entrepreneurial music career.  Lucky enough to earn a partial scholarship to Duke Law School, I did attend, graduate and continue on to become both a professional Jazz Singer and a young law partner – after approximately 7 years of practice – at a private law firm with a focus on entrepreneurship and business law.

Although I had learned much in private law practice, I began to look for a next career step that would benefit from my private law practice knowledge and experience and that would focus on creative and social entrepreneurship.  I did discover an innovative nonprofit in the Pittsburgh region with the mission of economic development and social entrepreneurship, and I built a relationship with its founder and President/C.E.O.  After working together via contract on several matters, I ultimately made the decision to leave private law practice and make the leap to focusing solely on artist entrepreneurship through my new music production company, ViveVenture, LLC, and on social entrepreneurship through this boutique nonprofit organization, Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation, as a management team member.

Many people thought that I was crazy to leave private law practice.  But, I was not truly fulfilled and realized that my full potential would not be realized if I did not make a career change.  I have had an amazing 20-year career as a professional Jazz Singer, band leader and producer, recording multiple CDs with tracks included on international albums with Norah Jones and many others, and performing live in Jazz clubs and performance series, festivals, charitable events and more regionally and nationally with some of the top Jazz musicians.  As a social entrepreneur and V.P. of Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation, I have helped to create and manage creativity and career programs, new Innovation Centers such as the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, and even to help to save and renovate historic arts and music venues such as the August Wilson home and the Crawford Grill Jazz Club.

When asked from time to time for career tips, two of the best that I have ever been given came from my Jazz mentors:  1) Do whatever you need to do to continue to challenge yourself to grow – take risks and don’t be afraid to fail, as it is only in trying new and uncomfortable things that you will ensure continued growth, improve your skills and become more and more excellent in your chosen career pathway.  2) If you believe in God, pray and listen to both God and to your own heart.  When others tell you that what you sincerely wish to do cannot be done, don’t listen to them and don’t stop working hard to develop your skills and to use those skills in service to others.  Even today, I am challenging myself to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and to continue to grow and serve others.

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The American Dream is Human Rights

The following is an article by Fayezeh Haji Hassan which was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 5, 2017.
Ms. Hassan graduated from Duquesne University School of Law in June 2017.

The American Dream is human rights

I have lived in chaos where there is no rule of law. Please, Americans, do not turn us away

I am a woman, a Muslim and an Iranian immigrant living in Pittsburgh. My family was forced to flee to Afghanistan and live under the Taliban because of the constant death threats my father received from the Iranian government for defending religious minority groups.

The Taliban forbade women from going to school; this was the most traumatic experience of my life because all I wanted to do was to study. I escaped the death threats of one dictator regime in Iran to endure the death of my dreams under another one in Afghanistan. But it did not stop me. I opened a home school in our neighborhood and taught younger girls.

This is my last year of law school at Duquesne University, and I know I have answered my life’s call. I have lived in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt. I am in America studying law because of the human rights violations I have experienced. I came here to equip myself with the best tools to help people at home. When I say home, I do not mean Iran. I mean any place —  I love every country that I have lived in — that needs my help and any child who is experiencing what I have experienced.

I learned early on that rights are not always given; sometimes rights must be taken. Now I am shifting gears. When I came here seven years ago, I did not believe my human-rights education would be needed in the United States. Now, I am planning to stay, to defend what is mine, and what is ours.

The new immigration ban on Muslim-majority countries has generated worldwide anxiety and stress. It has compelled me to understand the culture, values and mindset of my new home. Therefore, I subscribed to President Donald Trump’s Facebook page and have spent hours reading the comments to understand why people support this immigration ban. Here is what I have observed:

• This is a political game for many people, but it is not for those of us affected. I have not seen my family for seven years. I have gone through the long process of immigration, and I still do not even have my green card. I feel that most people who support this ban lack empathy. Some may feel that this is “their country” and that security should be a priority, but what is going on now has resulted in the reverse. I am not a religious person, but I cherish my Muslim identity more today than I ever have in my life.

• Some Americans are scared; it is an irrational phobia and not a valid fear. The New York Times recently published a list describing the long years and daunting security clearances that refugees must go through to get into the United States. It is extreme vetting. A similar process is in place to get a visa. The promise of the Trump campaign was to eliminate illegal immigration, but now the legal process has been targeted. Why? Perhaps because it is easy; supporters of the immigration ban want some kind of action, and they are getting some. They do not care whether it is right or wrong, effective or ineffective.

• Some people point out that, so far, this is a temporary ban. The lack of empathy behind such words makes my heart ache. If these people have an airline flight delayed, even once, they will make a big fuss. Refugees and immigrants have complied with endless procedures, paid their fees and waited with bated breath on every legal step. When they are on the edge of being granted admission to the United States, they are turned away by the stroke of a pen. The effect of this, I promise, is not temporary.

• The United States is my utopia. I came here to learn, to live and to prosper. I am not going to let anyone ruin it for me, so I will stay to fight to make sure we keep this country the way the U.S. Constitution defines it: a beacon of hope and dedicated to the rule of law. I have seen the worst chaos from the absence of the rule of law, and I will try my best to prevent it from happening here.

• The American Dream is human rights. This is a bold statement, but it is the brand that has been sold to the rest of the world, and it is the responsibility of the United States to uphold it. It is the American Dream that gives the United States the power to invade, to sanction, to lead and to draw talent from all around the world. America is the land of immigrants, and we, today’s immigrants, are not giving up on our human rights.

Muslim immigrants are a bridge between the United States and much of the world. And it is not an easy place to be. Do not embarrass us, please. I hate the fact that, when I defend America, I often hear, “You defend the country that discriminates against you for your religion and your country of birth!” Anyone can possess the American Dream, but not every dreamer is brave enough to follow it through.

It takes courage to leave your country, your family, your friends, and to go to a new country where the language is foreign, to start from zero, to work hard, and harder and harder, to see your dreams come true.

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Finding Calm when Integrating Work and Life

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

Clarissa Rayward’s article “Why Work Life Balance Didn’t Bring Me Happiness (And It Probably Won’t Work For You!),” offers some tips on finding calm when trying to integrate work and life:

“When it comes to our thoughts, the key is to be present wherever you are. We spend so much of our time worrying about the past or focused on tomorrow when instead we need to focus on today. …By training your mind to slow down, to see the good in any situation and to be focused on whatever it is you are doing right now, you can create a sense of calm even in the most chaotic moments in life.

“In those moments where you can feel your thoughts racing out of control, when you are distracted, stressed or worried just stop, be still and take 3 long slow breaths. As you do, focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, count slowly in your mind and relax.

“When it comes to our actions, we need to be aware of just how we are using our time. We all have exactly the same number of minutes, hours and days in a week but we can all choose how to use them. Thanks to our online, connected world there are more and more mental distractions available than ever before. …Work out what your ‘big rocks’ are in life and make sure you give them priority – sometimes this means saying ‘no’.

“Be aware of how you are spending your time – if you say ‘yes’ to something you are saying ‘no’ to something else so be clear on the things that you want in your life – take control of them and make them your priority. Something in your life will always be pulling you in one direction or another. …Let your energy and concentration go where it needs to go, whatever the day. Don’t worry about whether the time you are spending in the different aspects of your life is ‘balanced’ or not.

“Try letting go of ‘balance’ and instead aim for ‘now’. If you just do whatever you need to do right now to clear your mind, and to be present you will start to feel a sense of calm even when things are chaotic. Life is one whole continuum and you are one whole person with many different interests, responsibilities, passions and goals. The problems with then trying to get a sense of ‘balance’, evenness or equality between the different aspects of our lives is simply that – our lives are not even, they are not balanced and so we are setting ourselves up to fail by trying to make them so.”

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The Hedonic Treadmill

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains excerpts from The Positive Psychology Program, The Hedonic Treadmill-Are We Forever Chasing Rainbows? http://www.positivepsychologyprogram.com (Sep 5, 2016).

The Hedonic Treadmill is the theory that proposes we return to a certain level of happiness, regardless of what happens to us. The concept was first published in 1971 by psychologists Brickman and Campbell. During the 70’s the concept was known as hedonic adaptation, but twenty years later, Michael Eysenck likened the theory to that of a treadmill –a more modern and understandable example.

Happiness Set Point
Science has shown that circumstances don’t account for the major part of our happiness. The Happiness Set Point refers to the genetically determined predisposition for happiness that is responsible for about 50% of the differences between you and anyone else. Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky says:

“1. If you struggle with a low set point, meaning, you tend to gravitate towards sadness or depression, don’t be so hard on yourself, to an extent you’re dealing with a stacked deck.
2. Still 50%, as high at it is, is not 100%, so there’s plenty of leeway for improvement. Your actions, thoughts and attitudes account for 40% of your happiness, which is quite significant.”

According to the theory of the Hedonic Treadmill, regardless of what happens to someone, their level of happiness will return to their baseline after the event. This means that if you get married, get a promotion, lose a job, or suffer an accident, after a certain period of time you are likely to return to your set point.

There will be an initial spike in happiness or sadness after the event. However, as time goes on, the feeling of whatever emotion was brought on by said event, will start to dissipate, habituation will kick in, and eventually you will be back at the level of happiness you were at before the event.

If you are a person who experiences an abundance of positive events in a spaced out, but relatively short period of time, then the constant influx of happiness may lead you to believe that your general happiness has increased, BUT that’s not what the research says.

More recent research challenges the idea that adaptation is inevitable and shows that adaption processes may vary across events, individuals, and even within people over time. This research is even starting to reveal that change in our baseline level of happiness is possible, our baseline is positive and not neutral and that we have multiple set points that might move in opposite directions.

How to Become Happier
Tal Ben Shahar is a writer in the field of positive psychology. He suggests different tips for amplifying our level of happiness:

  1. Give permission to be human: accept our emotions, even fear, sadness, anxiety. Rejecting them leads to frustration.
  2. Simplify: we need to do less. Focus on one thing at a time, eliminate multitasks.
  3. Find meaning and pleasure: engage in goals we want to achieve versus what we feel obligated to do, spend two hours per week with our hobbies, spend time with our loved ones, etc.
  4. Focus on the positive, on what works well for us, and be grateful. Write 5 things every day before you sleep that you are grateful for, even seemingly minuscule things like the smile of a stranger, the sound of birds chirping, and so on.
  5. Increase the effort you put into your relationships. Go on a date with your wife or your husband or spend more time speaking to your children.
  6. Be mindful of the mind-body connection: Exercise, practice mindfulness meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises.

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The Mindful Lawyer

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains an excerpt from Robert Zeglovitch, The Mindful Lawyer, GPSolo Magazine (Oct/Nov 2006). (View Article)

The idea that lawyers would be drawn to the practice of meditation may seem counter-intuitive, but I have learned through personal experience that lawyers have a natural affinity for it.

A number of factors inherent in law practice make mindfulness and meditation particularly well suited to lawyers:

  • Lawyers suffer from stress-related health conditions at an alarmingly high rate. We are two to three times more likely to become depressed or chemically dependent than the average adult. Cultivating a habit with proven links to the reduction of the negative effects of stress makes good sense. Lawyers need to take a more proactive interest in their own health.
  • Lawyers are highly goal oriented. We measure ourselves. Sometimes relentlessly. Mindfulness goes beyond success and failure. Meditation practice has no expectations of outcome; the goal is simply to be. The process itself is the goal: being fully present regardless of daily experience. Lawyers can benefit from regularly setting aside a mind consumed by winning and losing.
  • Lawyers are driven by time. We are chronically on deadline and overbooked. We record our time in fractions of an hour in order to establish our incomes. Mindfulness meditation affords an opportunity to experience time in a completely different, non-linear way. When consciousness rests in the present moment, our sense of time can drop away.
  • Lawyers tend to be judgmental. Although this is a necessary skill in our profession, it can be corrosive when turned on ourselves or others. Mindfulness meditation encourages the cultivation of a deep acceptance of things as they are, instead of our habitual judgment of our experience. This does not mean that the mindful lawyer stops being a zealous and effective advocate—many famous Zen masters were renowned for their ferocious presence. The practice of loosening judgment’s hold can help develop qualities that are diminished or have been neglected: wisdom, tolerance, and compassion.
  • Lawyers are trained to think their way out of problems. Our ability to construct compelling arguments is a wonderful skill, but not all of our problems can be solved by thinking and arguing. Mindfulness mediation draws on innate awareness that is prior to thinking and language.

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Enjoy What You’re Doing

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains an excerpt from Harrison Barnes, You Need to Enjoy What You Are Doing, www.hb.org (Jul 19, 2016).

One of the greatest lessons you can ever learn is that you shouldn’t be doing anything you don’t enjoy. You should enjoy getting up for your job each day. You should like the work you do and be so interested in it you think about it at night. You should like the people around you and should never do anything you don’t truly love and enjoy. There is nothing wrong with suffering though certain classes when you’re in school and there’s nothing wrong with doing certain types of grunt work; however, you really shouldn’t be doing something you do not enjoy.

Nothing good ever happens and nothing good will ever come to you when you’re doing tasks and jobs that don’t interest you. So many people go through their lives doing things they don’t enjoy. This is totally unnecessary.

Regardless of how stupid you think what you enjoy doing is, the chances are you can make a very good living doing it if you really get passionate about it.

You shouldn’t be doing anything that you don’t enjoy. Nothing good ever happens and nothing good will ever come to you when you are doing tasks and jobs that do not interest you. Spend your working time doing something that lights your fire. Additionally, do work where you feel welcome and among people who are like you. When you do this, your life will begin to change.

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Keep Technology from Disrupting Happiness

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains excerpts from Kira M. Newman, How to Keep Technology from Disrupting Your Happiness, Greater Good Berkeley, http://www.greatergood.berkeley.edu (Apr 13, 2017).

Technology can bring happiness, but if we are not careful, it can also bring anxiety, stress, and frustration. Amy Blankson, author of the book, The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era, has deemed our back-and-forth emotions with technology as an “attitude problem”. She says, “As tech advances and we accept these changes without pause, I worry that maybe our happiness is getting left behind, moving further down the priority list.”

To help get our happiness back regarding technology, Blankson argues that we should pause and become more self-aware. We should set intentional goals for our technological interactions. “That way, we’ll cultivate more connection and productivity—and less stress and loneliness—in our digital lives.”

The average American turns their phone on 46 times per day, and only sometimes during those times are we using it for something useful –such as looking up a restaurant, using Google Maps, or setting an alarm. However, Blankson says, “I encourage you to avoid the road of the tech doomsday-sayers, because I don’t see that it is truly possible for us to eliminate technology and I don’t think we should have to eliminate technology to find happiness.”

For example, many tech users say that email has improved their relationships with their family and friends. Many people have even met someone online and later connected with them in person –some of those people are now married or engaged.

In her book, Blankson gives some tips on how to use technology in ways to avoid stress. She recommends checking email, social media, and news just three times a day. She cites research that suggests that people who check these things less frequently become less stressed and in turn sleep better, experience deeper social connections, and live more meaningful lives.

She also suggests putting down our phones and laptops at certain times and using them at others. For example, Blankson encourages families to share moments of gratitude on Facebook or Instagram, and even recommends some apps to help us become more giving and empathic.

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Mindfulness for Law Study & Lawyering

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains an excerpt from Leonard L. Riskin, The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Contributions of Mindfulness Meditation to Law Students, Lawyers, and their Clients (View Article).

It seems likely that the outcomes of mindfulness can help improve or enrich a law student or lawyer’s performance on virtually any task, from learning and manipulating rules, to drafting documents and litigating cases. In addition,…mindfulness sometimes deepens and clarifies a person’s awareness.

Jerry Conover, of counsel to Faegre and Benson in Denver, says that it affects his overall state of mind, giving him a “balancing and bottoming perspective that is unshakeable.”

Steven Schwartz, head of a public interest disability law firm based in Northampton, Massachusetts, says that it helps him think creatively. Sometimes when he is meditating, without trying for anything, solutions to practical problems in the office occur to him; on some days, the outline of an entire brief will come to him, and, he says, “[it] is sublimely, precisely correct.” In addition, the practice helps him connect with his feelings of compassion for his clients, “it is singularly why,” Schwartz says, “I’ve been able to do the same work for twenty-seven years without being overwhelmed by the pain and my feelings for these devalued people.” It has also deepened his understanding of the motives of people involved in his cases and keeps him motivated for “the long haul.”

The peaceful presence of a lawyer who practices mindfulness meditation is likely to affect the client, too.

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