Radio-Age Meets Internet-Age: How Do Different Generations of Lawyers Communicate? – Part 1

Image courtesy of foto76 / FreeDigitalPhotos.netAn older lawyer wants a younger lawyer to return phone calls. The younger lawyer wants the older to return texts. An older lawyer wants to interact face-to-face. The younger lawyer wants to interact electronically. An older lawyer wants to see a younger lawyer well-dressed and at his or her desk. The younger lawyer wants to be casually dressed and working remotely.

Have any of these situation come up at your law firm?

“A law firm can have as many as four different generations working together at the same time – and often on the same team,” said Caroline Turner. “Each of these generations brings different expectations and styles to the table – depending on the cultural climate in which they grew up. Each generation can be dismissive of the traits of those who are older or younger.”

Generations are strongly shaped by historic and technological developments during the first two decades of their lives. These in turn lead to different values and different approaches to work and the workplace. Depending on a lawyer’s generation, there are specifics “do’s” and “don’ts” to effective workplace interaction.

When misunderstood, these differences can hinder communications and workplace experience,” said Turner. When understood, these differences can be put to work to enhance the goals of the law firm.”

Turner discussed generational differences at the monthly educational meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, held March 11 at Ocean Prime in LoDo, Denver.

Turner is a lawyer and principal at Difference WORKS LLC, where she helps leaders achieve better business results by creating inclusive work environments. She is author of Difference Works: Improving Retention, Productivity and Profitability through Inclusion. She is former general counsel of Coors Brewing Company and a former partner at Holme Roberts & Owen.

“The four generations are typically referred to as the Traditional, Boomer, Gen X and Millennial generations, said Turner. “These are generalizations. Obviously, many of your lawyers come to you from the ‘cusp’ or transition point of two generations, and will exhibit mixed traits.”


Traditionals were born before 1946

Many law firms still have a number of “Traditionals” showing up at the office every day. These are lawyers age 68 and older.

Transformative events that took place during the formative years of traditionals include Prohibition, the crash of the stock market and the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the New Deal and two world wars. In short, they grew up surrounded by a lot of jeopardy.

“To survive and succeed, Traditionals had to be frugal, self-sacrificing and hardworking,” said Turner. “They learned to be reliable and reserved, to dress conservatively and to follow the rules. When jobs are scarce, you do not want to rock the boat. They got their news from newspapers and the radio.”

In the workplace, Traditionals were loyal to their firms. “They expected to rise through the partnership track to hold one job for their entire lives,” said Turner. “They worked from nine-to-five and respected the formal hierarchy. They always wore suits to work. Family life was separate from work life.”

In today’s workplace, Traditionals feel that they deserve to be respected for their experience, and listened to. They are used to a slower style of communication. Other generations should not rush them.


Stay tuned for part 2 of this article where Janet shares how Boomers, Gen X and Millenials communicate.



Image courtesy of foto76 /

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Janet Ellen Raasch

About Janet Ellen Raasch

Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer, ghostwriter, editor and blogger at Constant Content Blog who works closely with professional services providers – especially lawyers, law firms, legal consultants and legal organizations – to help them achieve name recognition and new business through publication of keyword-rich content for the web and social media sites as well as articles and books for print. She can be reached at (303) 399-5041 or

More posts:View all posts by Janet Ellen Raasch


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