1. Being Thoughtful about What You Share on Social Media
Propped in the influencer generation and born after the dot-com bubble, our generation has gotten used to individuals being more comfortable oversharing intimate details of their lives and being encouraged, via the instant gratification of “likes,” to vent. The COVID-19 pandemic further normalized peering into everyone’s personal lives on a day-to-day basis through Zoom calls, Webex, LinkedIn, etc. These platforms, which used to be used strictly for publishing professional content, became outlets to share motivational stories and allow colleagues into our homes. The open access to someone’s personal home, via work video calls, further emphasized the difference between the privacy concerns of a 26-year-old lawyer and those of a 45-year-old lawyer.
I would advise Gen Zers to recognize that social media are part of your résumé. Consider, would this be in bad taste if I overshare this aspect of my life with a potential employer? Being conscious of oversharing shouldn’t mean to stifle your creativity, delete your social media account, or pose a fake version of yourself. Just be aware of your audience and what views you endorse if your content is public.
There are also ethics and professionalism nuances that come into play. For example, often lawyers will be excited to share a case or a client that they’re working on. However, a violation of ethical rules on confidentiality and publication of a client’s information on social media accounts could potentially get you disbarred. As an attorney, you are held to a very high ethical ground. Thus, a lot of attorneys write a disclaimer on their social media to protect them from liability and to separate their opinions from those of their workplace. An example of such a disclaimer might say, “The views expressed are my own and not of my employer.”
Law school is no easy feat. You worked hard to get to where you are. Don’t throw it all away because of a tweet. Just as how law school teaches us that attorneys craft each word with poise and deliberation, we must be careful how we present ourselves on social media.
2. Harnessing the Power of Social Media in Practice
We are living through an age where influencers have successfully turned their antics into a full-time job. Maybe when you were applying to law school, you consumed a few YouTube videos and TikToks on #LawTikTok providing insider advice on the LSAT and applications. Maybe you read through Reddit and Discord threads about admissions late at night. A study has shown that 54 percent of influencers creating sponsored posts on Instagram worldwide in 2019 were between 25 and 34 years old.
Social media—when used properly, professionally, and ethically in conformity with the law and ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct—can be a huge asset in any attorney’s toolkit. As a member of Generation Z, I believe it is important to recognize the millennials who charted the way before us.
I am incredibly thankful for my millennial “mentor buddy” at my law firm who has helped me integrate professionally into the first job experience I have ever had, as well as my millennial mentor in law school. I urge everyone to find a trusted mentor who is close to you in age, in addition to a mentor who is more of a senior lawyer. However, it is imperative to be able to get along with attorneys of diverse age ranges and perspectives because this resembles what practicing as an attorney is like. In the next section, we discuss how to best approach this.
3. Finding a Common Thread in Networking with Attorneys of Different Ages
Humans have a natural affinity for similarities. There is a large body of research showing this. Thus, it is necessary to find that common thread to elicit a positive experience from an interaction.
I often found myself overwhelmed with the differences. How would I, as an unmarried Gen Z, provide valuable insight to my millennial classmate who was rambling about planning her upcoming wedding? How could I add to the conversation when the Gen X attorneys at the networking event were venting about their children? What did I, a woman who does not drink alcohol or own a dog due to religious reasons, have in common with my fellow interns who, for some reason, talked only about their dogs or wine pairings?
Then I realized sometimes people aren’t looking for you to live a parallel life to theirs. The best thing I could do is be an active listener. Lawyers love to vent and talk about themselves. When they find that they can do so and feel heard, a common thread is formed. So, I encourage you to forge that golden thread. In the off chance that you cannot, simply listen with empathy and react to what they are saying by asking questions to demonstrate that you care. You may even gain new insight and knowledge about new topics.
At the same time, do be cognizant of what is unprofessional. Some things that would be fine to say in front of your peers in law school may send mixed messages to experienced attorneys. Be authentic but read tone and facial expressions. Being informal can be more human, but do not be that person who makes others uncomfortable at work by oversharing locker room talk.
In the next section, we talk about perception as it relates to intergenerational differences and how to combat the snap judgments some may inevitably have of us as young attorneys.
4. Fighting the Stereotype
“Self-absorbed. Lazy. Always on their phone. Opinionated. Social Justice Warrior. Whiny. Privileged. Lazy. Wants instant gratification.”
Millennials are often called the entitled generation by some Gen Xers and baby boomers. Millennials created a shift in workforce culture by normalizing setting boundaries for work-life balance, speaking up for themselves against toxic employers, not being afraid to jump ship if they weren’t treated as a valuable member of the team, and emphasizing the importance of mental health.
Gen Z, the social justice generation of the internet age, started working after the pandemic, proving that it is possible to work remotely if you get everything done.
Gen Zers accentuated for employers the importance of work-life balance and fulfillment over prolonged hours at the office, especially in a field where there are incredibly high rates of substance use and depression. Employers had to adapt and believe that it was possible to maintain a strong work ethic while working from home. Gen Zers showed up remotely and got their work done, tilting the scales of skepticism from experienced lawyers who always have done their work at their office. Why live up to the negative stereotypes people have of Gen Zers, when there is a plethora of positive ones? “Tech Savvy. Creative. Empathetic. Entrepreneurial. Good sense of humor. Good leader. Up-to-date on current issues. Environmentally conscious. Multitasker. Talented. Socially informed. Unique ideas.”