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Panelists Trade Barbs at Debate on Work Ethic of Millennial Generation

Posted May 22, 2009 8:35 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Are members of the Millennial generation self-entitled and lazy? Or are they energetic, aware and forging a new path so they won’t have to sacrifice their families for a career?

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog highlights the debate—and the conflicts—that emerged at a panel discussion last month at InsideCounsel SuperConference in Chicago. The Millennials—also known as Generation Y—were born between the early 1980s and 2000, and many of them were latchkey kids, Adrian Dayton writes in an account of the session at the blog Marketing Strategy and the Law.

“Partners, you don’t understand us,” Dayton writes. “Let me tell you a little bit about our generation (both X and Y). We grew up in the suburbs. We came home from school to empty houses. You may have heard of us being referred to as the ‘latch-key’ generation. We had two cars, and in most cases money to buy all the food and clothes we needed. We would have traded it all just to have parents that were around more. We don’t want to make the same mistakes our parents made.

“We are not motivated by money. At least not as much as our parents were. The currency we are most interested in is lifestyle. Some of us are brilliant and hard working, but you have to dangle the right carrot in front of us.”

New York criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield offers another perspective. At his Simple Justice blog, he has coined a term for Millennials who aren’t given to hard work—the “Slackoisie.” On the panel, he made some harsh statements about these types of people. “Generation Y is entitled, lazy, selfish, tech savvy and incompetent,” he said. “Generation Y uses this term 'life-balance' as an excuse for their incompetence.”

Panel moderator Dan Hull took Greenfield’s side, according to Dayton. “I had a summer associate call me and ask me, ‘So that my girlfriend and I can coordinate our showers in the morning, can I schedule to come in at 9:30 instead of 8:30 to work?’ ” Hull said.

“I think the problem is that they don’t know how to work,” Hull said. “Our firm has hired 15 attorneys in the last few years from Generation Y, and not one of them is still working for us.”

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