By Catherine Ferguson
If you are a young attorney, then, more likely than not, you have found yourself searching through a job board or employment website scrolling past entry-level job after entry-level job looking for someone with five-to-seven years of experience, and thinking, “How will I ever get experience if no one will hire me?” If you are a partner at your firm or the head of HR, you may be thinking, “Well, why would I want someone with no experience?” The answer is that young attorneys, while lacking the typical experience those job posts are referencing, bring so much more to the table. The current generation of new attorneys grew up in the age of computers and social media and know, almost intuitively, how these things work. This knowledge can be a vital asset, both to a young job-seeker looking to promote their value, and to their potential employer whose Microsoft Word won’t %&$#*@^ stop autonumbering their contract clauses.
This isn’t to say that hiring a millennial attorney means a firm can fire their IT guy, but most young attorneys have been using the basic computer software utilized by law firms their entire adult lives. Microsoft Word — used for taking notes or writing papers in college and law school. PowerPoint — used for every classroom presentation. Lexis and Westlaw — basically fancy Google, which is how all millennials get answers. Young attorneys can solve computer issues, conduct online research, and learn new software incredibly quickly because the very nature of computer software has become an integral part of their daily lives.
As a real-life example, in the last week, I (a young attorney) helped a partner at my firm create a PowerPoint presentation which would have taken her hours, fixed another colleague’s laptop when it wouldn’t connect with her printer, and helped a secretary format the place-cards for an upcoming event. The benefit of my ability to solve a problem more intuitively than my less tech-savvy colleagues benefits my firm almost daily by preventing a small computer SNAFU from ballooning into a missed deadline due to a faulty printer or a pleading being filed with the wrong date because of an auto-filled field. Young lawyers like me add value to a firm by providing smart, motivated attorneys with IT skills (or at least the ability to find a solution fast) that could save time and money where it counts.
So, whether you are a new lawyer wondering how you can promote yourself in an interview over someone with more experience, or you are a partner looking to hire someone that will truly benefit your firm, remember that there are advantages that lie beyond the resume. Young attorneys come with skills that they likely take for granted but, could save their boss a headache when the sentences in their complaint won’t line up with the %&*$^&#! margin numbers.
Catherine Ferguson advises public and private clients on matters regarding Environmental, Real Property, Land Use, and Municipal Law. Her transactional practice includes real property purchase and sale agreements, development agreements, zoning regulations, and project entitlements. Her Environmental Law practice includes California and Federal water quality law, stormwater regulation and compliance, and environmental impact reports under CEQA. Her Municipal Law practice includes stormwater laws, development regulation, and municipal code provisions.