In the most recent statistical profile by the Texas Young Lawyers Association, there was a 4 percent growth in young lawyers in Texas between 2020 and 2021. The number of young lawyers will continue to grow. More specifically, the number of “Millennials” will increase and eventually will be the dominant age group among attorneys practicing in America. Millennials have been called the Me Generation, the Burnout Generation, and Generation Y. They currently make up one-quarter of the U.S. population, having surpassed boomers as the largest generation to date. Millennials are the most educated generation, holding the most advanced degrees compared to any other generation. They already make up the largest portion of the workforce and are estimated to comprise 50% of the labor force in the coming years. However, they are changing jobs more frequently than any other generation in history, and this turnover costs the U.S. economy an estimated $30.5 billion annually.
While Millennials are credited with great strides in education and technology- it is not without consequences. Approximately 93% of Millennials own smartphones, nearly 100% access the Internet, and 86% use social media. According to statistics, Millennials touch their smartphones 45 times a day, and 87% use two to three devices daily. They also spend roughly 25 hours per week online, with the figure growing each year exponentially.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are taken from studies of Millennials across all demographics and occupations. With the increased usage of technology and the birth of the Internet and Social Media in the legal profession- those numbers are likely higher in young attorneys.
Before the creation of advanced technology and the Internet, lawyers already led the pack in alcoholism and suicide rates. The facts and statistics above show the epidemic of low self-esteem, jealousy, and unhappiness in young lawyers but with the added layer of the constant barrage of highlight reels posted by peers on social media, newsfeeds showing lavish vacations, and posts showing million-dollar verdicts.
All this to say, Millennials are a vibrant, dynamic group whose lives are often marked by an intense need to connect and feel as though they are a part of a larger community. The mental health community is only now catching up to understanding the unique needs of this generation. According to research from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2012), Millennials are the most studied generation of all time. However, the mental health community (and law partners, supervisory attorneys, and the legal community in general) are decades behind in treating and understanding young attorneys.
As a Millennial and young lawyer, it has been fascinating to witness and be a part of this ever-changing generation. I joined Facebook and other social media platforms in their infancy with the idea of keeping in touch with friends and family. Like others, these platforms slowly increased to include acquaintances from high school, long-lost cousins, elementary school friends, high-school teachers, law school colleagues, college professors, and random neighbors. My parents joined social media platforms and yet another element of complexity was added when they questioned the meaning behind my posts or why I was photographed with one person or another.
It is easy to see the invasive and pernicious subconscious influence of being constantly bombarded by others’ images, emotions, and thoughts. Was I craving pumpkin spice because it was really how I felt or was I “vibing” off the energy of an influencer?
The law profession has always been a case study in comparison. The billboards showcasing millions of dollars in settlements and the yearly “Best Attorney” awards serve as a constant and easy comparison within the profession. Additionally, the monthly tradition of looking at the grievance section in the State Bar of Texas journal is surely the source of “finding dirt” that has become standard practice in our profession. It is no wonder that young lawyers are suffering from unique mental and physical health challenges.
While nothing could replace a licensed therapist or physician, here are some actionable habits and tips that have helped a Millennial young lawyer (me) and which might help you (or help you connect with your Millennial young lawyer).
Tips for Young Lawyers
- Workplaces issues are a common theme in any generation, similarly to job dissatisfaction or burnout. While some negative stereotypes may lead people to point towards entitlement or other similar factors contributing to dissatisfaction, there are a number of solutions to improve your job.
Feeling lost or hopeless at work? Find ways to approach your boss or mentor to get feedback or receive more challenging tasks.
Feeling overworked or burned out? Set boundaries with technology (i.e., if you’re using two phones, then silence your work cell phone after-hours), and don’t work evenings or weekends.
Stressors around commute? Advocate for telecommuting and working from home.
No friends at work or interpersonal concerns? Discussing moving teams, networking, or moving office locations.
Financial concerns? Consider how to ask for a raise, take on new responsibilities with more pay, or further education to advance leadership.
- Young lawyers will rarely send a letter via mail and will likely never need to recall or employ the mailbox rule that we spent hours learning about. However, young lawyers receive more emails a day than letters other generations ever received in a week. While most work communications for millennials involve email in favor of phone calls, this does not mean Millennials are masters of email by any means. Author Jocelyn Glei shared that while several decades ago communication involved the effort of putting a stamp on an envelope and dropping it in the mail, nowadays, anyone with an Internet connection has immediate access to any individual.
A few tips for managing your inbox and sanity:
Autoresponders are your friend: Use them before-hours, after-hours, on weekends, and definitely when on vacation. Even use them to say you’ll get back to the sender when you have more time. More and more people are expecting immediate responses.
Use email templates: If you always get emails on the same topic or themes, develop a draft, change the details, and copy and paste. This is much faster and more efficient than typing up different versions of the same message.
Unsubscribe: It might be a pain, but spend a day and go through the effort of unsubscribing for each of those pesky promotional emails you ended up on, and even block them for assurance.
File, File, and File: Create folders, subfolders, or color codes. Do whatever you need to do to organize it all. You can even have a “read later” file just to clean things up.
Slow things down: Slowing down isn’t popular in the workplace, but email can become so cumbersome that you never get anything done on your to-do list because you’re constantly managing everything that comes up. Be polite and be prompt, but set an expectation of at least one response per 24-hour window on non-urgent tasks and requests.
Check your email no more than two or three times per day: Many executives and CEOs swear by a twice-a-day email check. First thing in the morning, they set aside some time to exercise, meditate, eat a healthy breakfast, and read the paper. Then they check their email and get back to others. They do a solid block of work for several hours and then do another check later in the day or evening to wrap up emails for the day.
- Another key tool many Millennials are using is called mindfulness. Many Millennials are familiar with mindfulness as a general idea, but they are not familiar with the core foundations. Dr. Jon Zabat-Zinn, one of the founding fathers of mindfulness, describes the seven basic principles of mindfulness as non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go. It should come as no surprise that these words are like nails on a chalkboard to some young lawyers.
Below are the concepts of mindfulness described with some tips on how to practice them.
Young lawyers should not be the judge, which is difficult in our profession. The concept of non-judging is viewing events that occur from the perspective of a third-person omniscient narrator. This might also be useful when thinking about how a jury would view your case.
For Millennials, cultivating patience can be challenging. Patience allows things to unfold in their own divine time.
Adopting a beginner’s mind is akin to seeing things through a child’s eyes Dash for the first time. It is simple to the old adage “stop and smells the roses.” So often, we rushed past the rosebush on our way to the bus stop that we don’t notice the beauty. It is only when you stop one day that you realize its beauty and fragrance for the first time. Having a beginner’s mind allows us to get out of our pattern of thinking.
Lawyers are trained to rely on their intuition, sense of self, and what it is that you need. Too often, millennials can get caught up in what their colleagues and friends are doing and ignore the best decision for themselves. It just involves knowing your limits and being comfortable setting boundaries, and taking time to nurture yourself.
Likely the hardest of them all for lawyers. In the legal professions’ ultra-competitive environment, there’s so much pressure place on individuals to succeed. This becomes such a deeply ingrained mindset that the idea of non-striving can be completely foreign. In fact, it might even be confused with laziness in our profession. In actuality, non-striving is about excepting things as they happen. It is the idea of allowing things to fall as they may without striving to change things.
Acceptance means allowing things to be as they are. You often do not agree with things, but learning to accept them opens the doors to finding peace. If you get an adverse verdict for your client, you might be unhappy, but you must learn to accept it. Only more struggle and strife arise by pushing, denying, and trying to force things your way. Acceptance allows us to remain active, but it does not put us in a constant state of discomfort.
It can be challenging in a culture where we so strongly desire to control our outcomes. A major component of western culture involves being industrious and creating our destinies. While this is highly revered, it often leads to the common misconception that we control all aspects of our life. This can be too much despair when we are unable to control something. Learning to let go gives us the freedom to step back and close the door with the knowledge the new one will eventually open.
Five-Minute Mindful Cup Meditation
Most attorneys (and Millennials) enjoy caffeine and partake in the morning coffee or afternoon pick-me-up. These times provide an opportunity to practice a five-minute beverage meditation. Grab your favorite beverage or snack. Set a timer for five minutes and see if you can focus solely on the experience of drinking or eating. No fancy meditations or mantras are required. You can close your eyes the entire time or focus your gaze on the swirling steam rising from the cup. You might focus on the warmth radiating into your hands as you grasp your cup. Don’t try to change or judge your thoughts or get too in your head about it. Just focus on your drink. This exercise can go a long way in capturing a peaceful moment to yourself.
Tips for Those Working with Young Lawyers
- Millennials are individualist but also team-oriented and civic-minded. For Millennials, their concern is more with having a vocation than a job. They want meaning and impact, and they don’t want to waste any time getting there. Particularly, high-debt loads have diminished many millennials’ upward mobility- specifically felt by the crippling loan debt from law school.
Studies have found that Millennials must feel like their job gives them a sense of purpose and meaning to increase the likelihood that Millennials will stay at a job. In addition, the following factors may reduce job turnover: a pay increase or bonus, a new challenge or promotion, better work-life balance, a clear career path, and recognition by managers and colleagues.
- Fast-moving young attorneys have a never-ending dialogue of thoughts, ideas, and criticisms that runs on repeat in their minds (often at a million miles an hour). There can be a constant pull towards certain cognitive distortions, such as mind-reading what others think when posting an Instagram story or catastrophizing when they accidentally hit “reply all” on an email they were blind copied on. Given that millennials grew up in the wake of many real tragedies, it is no wonder their minds can wander into negative thoughts. The world around them can be filled with triggers and real dangers. Helping them come back to a state of balance and even neutrality in their own life circumstances is one of the biggest gifts you can give them.
Identifying and understanding cognitive distortions is one of the most powerful tools for helping young lawyers. Most take comfort knowing they aren’t the only ones who frequently fall into these traps. It is very common to catastrophize after watching the evening news or to magnify a careless driver’s offenses while minimizing that job promotion you just got.
The following are cognitive distortions explained, and it is crucial to understand these distortions and recognize them within. When cognitive distortions increase in frequency and intensity, they can interfere with emotional well-being. While it is normal to “mind read” what a neighbor thinks about you from time to time but, when you truly believe that everyone hates you, that is a sign it is taking over your life.
Black-and-White Thinking (All-or-Nothing Thinking)
In this type of thinking, you don’t see the shades of gray or alternate possibilities in a situation. Things tend to fall into one of two categories; good versus bad or success versus failure.
Distortion involves looking only at the worst-case scenario expecting a disaster to occur.
Fortune-Telling (Mind Reading or Predicting the Future)
Distortion involves jumping to negative conclusions either by mind-reading predicting the future.
In this distortion, you selectively pay attention to the negatives and under-appreciate the positives in the scenario.
Assuming bad things will happen repeatedly is a hallmark of this thinking trap. Individuals who tend to fall into this type of thinking often use words such as “always,” “never,” “should,” “must,” “everyone,” and “no one.”
In this type of thinking, there’s a tendency to interpret feelings for facts.
Distortion involves taking responsibility or blame for things over which you may have little or no control over.
It involves having unrealistic expectations of perfection in your life.
This distortion values inaccurately comparing ourselves to others who appear better off than we are while putting ourselves down in the process.
This distortion involves making a global, negative assumption about yourself based on one situation or experience. When you engage in labeling, you put yourself down instead of finding ways to remedy the situation in a way to better your life.
Involves discounting the good and over-emphasizing the bad.
Being a Millennial young lawyer in this era can be exhilarating and exhausting. There is the promise of technological advancements that are life-changing and deeply inspiring. However, there is also loss of connection and purpose that is ever looming. Holding an awareness of a delicate balance between lifelong earning and embracing new horizons while maintaining our roots and values is more important than ever. Millennials are truly one of the first generations to experience this first hand.
This article serves as information and tips for young lawyers to care for themselves and others in our profession- not as a replacement for professional help. We need to take care of our bodies and minds and consider shifting priorities to find what matters most in our lives. Perhaps this will help you connect more deeply with others, learn to understand your mind and find time to breathe, whether on a bus or while drinking coffee.
Cali Franks is an associate at Bocell Ridley, PC practicing civil litigation. She can be reached at 469-810-0682.
 Young lawyers are currently defined as attorneys 36 years or younger or any attorney in their first five years of practice.
 Millennials are commonly understood to be made up of individuals who have been born between 1908s and 1996.
 Emmons, 2018.
 Vogels, 2019
 Herosmtyh, 2017.
 Herosmyth, 2017.
 ManpowerGroup, 2016.
Articles on the DAYL website are provided for informational use only, and are in no way intended to constitute legal advice or the opinions or views of the DAYL.