Tired: Pontificating about how the legal profession will possibly cope with the scourge of Millennial lawyers.
Inspired: Pontificating about how the legal profession will possibly cope with the scourge of “Generation Z” lawyers.
Yes, the days of people complaining about how Millennials are ruining everything may finally be coming to end, as there is now a new, post-Millennial generation finally reaching adulthood that we can all complain about and analyze like they’re some sort of newly discovered lifeform.
A Wake Forest University School of Law professor, Laura Graham, has written a forthcoming law journal article titled “Generation Z Goes to Law School: Teaching and Reaching Law Students in the Post-Millennial Generation.”
To get everyone caught up, “Millennial” and “Generation Z” are both entirely artificial social constructs. There’s no consensus where one ends and the other begins, but today’s college students are probably the earliest members of a cohort called Generation Z for silly reasons (just be thankful that we’ve finally reached the end of the alphabet).
An abstract for Graham’s article draws from many of the tropes that dominate the punditry about Millennials: there are some sweepingly broad generalizations (Z’s are insecure and anxious, and growing up more slowly, apparently) and suggests “concrete strategies for legal educators to address the challenges presented by Generation Z students.” The Z’s “haven’t learned how to critically read and deeply analyze information,” Graham warns.
As it happens, in the downtime between writing these columns, Sidebar actually teaches LSAT preparation for an especially well-known test prep company, and so has gotten to know and work with quite a few students who are currently finishing up their first semester of law school.
It turns out, they’re actually really nice, and you’re probably going to like them. At a minimum, they seem to be much more mature and conscientious than Sidebar was at that age (although admittedly this is an extremely low bar to clear).
There’s actually quite a bit of statistical evidence to back this up. In the last decade, rates of crime, teenage drug use, teenage alcohol use, and teen pregnancy have all plummeted in the U.S. Yes, the Z’s sure do seem to love their smartphones, but they also appear to be fantastically more responsible than their parents, and at least one U.S. Supreme Court justice, were when they were teens.
As such, they can probably handle law school. And of course, the tiny fraction of Z’s planning to go to law school are themselves going to be quite different from their peers in all kinds of ways. In fact, Millennial and Generation Z lawyers (or future lawyers) will almost certainly have more in common with older generations of lawyers than they do with other members of their own generation.
So one more time for the people in the back: Thinking about people as if they’re part of some monolithic bloc of “Millennials” or “Generation Z” or whatever is a profoundly unhelpful mental exercise. These kids, I assure you, are going to be alright.