Do Generation Y and Baby Boomer lawyers need a mediator?

mediateI’ve written often here about the fault lines in the ADR profession – the deep rifts dividing facilitative and evaluative mediators, the line in the sand between attorneys who mediate and professional mediators who are not lawyers. These dividing lines damage our collegiality and pose harm to our credibility as dispute resolution professionals; if we are unable to face and address our own differences, how can we be relied upon to assist others?

Other professions are of course no strangers to such schisms. In fact intractable conflict smolders now between lawyers, rooted not in doctrinal or political differences but in generational ones. Adrian Dayton, a lawyer who publishes an eponymous blog, discusses its impact in “Candid exchange highlights a disconnect” in The Buffalo Law Journal.

After describing the rancorous arguing that has ensued between members of different generations of lawyers, Dayton, a Gen Y lawyer, observes:

What does that tell us? That there is a real conflict – and lack of understanding – on both sides. The biggest message I took away from it was that we’d better figure each other out – we’re going to be together for a while.

Dayton has thus signaled his willingness to bridge the generation gap. So what about his counterparts on the other side? No word yet. But if they need some assistance, the blogosphere’s full of mediators.

4 responses to “Do Generation Y and Baby Boomer lawyers need a mediator?

  1. Pingback: Do Gen Y & BabyBoom lawyers need a mediator? Afterall, they’ll be together for a while… by @dianelevin via @idealawg - Twitoaster

  2. I experienced this tension myself before I left practice & it had the unexpected benefit of creating a “common enemy” for opposing counsel — Gen Y. I recall one opponent telling me that they’d appointed one of their non-equity partners as the “gate keeper” to make sure the Gen Y lawyers didn’t leave at 6 p.m. This was an AmLaw 100 law firm paying its Gen Y lawyers “market” which was, I believe, around $125K/year at the time. Perhaps not so strange that the Boomer generation, the ultimate generation-gap whiners who wanted no part of their parents’ safe world and status-conscious stuff would end up being the biggest status-conscious, money-driven generation of them all. So who knows what Gen Y will be when it is in charge? $#@%^$holes, most likely, the way every “ruling class” is to the masses being ruled. The level of vitriol expressed by Boomers is likely motivated by the losses all ruling classes are acutely feeling by the time they/we become “the boss.” Missing opportunities, regrets, sacrifices that seem too great in retrospect for the benefit being reaped in the present. Aren’t the “children” always ungrateful and unmindful of the sacrifices of the earlier generation? Don’t they always break away, first by identifying themselves in opposition to their “elders” as the first step in defining what will be their unique contribution? Listen. We have (or will have) adored grandchildren soon. And their parents, our “children” have a pretty frightful task before them for the generation they are raising. Global warming (whether one “believes” it or not, a possibility of massive species extinction, rising waters, mass relocation of peoples and the inevitable bloody conflicts that such relocations can cause); an increasingly polarized first and second/third world; the rise of religious passion turned toward nationalist and genocidal purpose; and, the ever-deepening global economic crisis — these challenges are Gen Y’s and we should be standing shoulder to shoulder with them, listening to their concerns and interests, locating commonalities and maximizing intellectual and spiritual resources, and drawing a larger circle encompassing not simply Boomers, Gen X’ers, Y’s and Millenials, but Republican and Democrats, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Bhuddists, adversarial litigators and peace-loving mediators, facilitators, transformatives and evaluatives, black and white and everything in between, hetero, homo and transgendered. Time to stop wasting time bickering over the placement of deck chairs on the Titanic and to keep all hands’ on deck watching for the ice berg looming ahead.

  3. I’ve always been intrigued by the “evaluative/facilitative dichotomy.”

    My early mediation training was all about facilitation. Even today, seven years later, in my family mediation practice, I can’t imagine any other approach, since without the trust of both parties in the mediator’s integrity as a neutral, at all times and on all issues, there is little or no hope of success. Thus, deviation from the facilitative model is highly dangerous, if not outright fatal.

    However, in all other spheres of my practice, I evolved pretty rapidly. For one thing, in my past incarnation as a practicing litigator, my forte had been case construction, issue spotting, and tactical extension, perhaps a carryover from college debate. I found myself knowing where a case was likely to end up well before the parties did in many instance. Evaluative techniques began to seep in and, within a couple of years, my technique was primarily evaluative, although how and when I did my evaluation with clients was highly variable from case to case.

    As for the overarching question, since I believe that virtually all cases that go to trial are the result of an irrational economic decision by one or more parties, I cannot imagine an attorney, whatever generator, who does not need mediation as an adjunct in cases in which the parties are unable to settle.

  4. Alec, thanks for describing your own evolution as a practitioner. It’s a pleasure to connect with you – and thanks also for taking that connection to LinkedIn. Appreciate it!