Common Misconception About Younger Employees

In an otherwise maddening post about his experience with a law school student, Craig Ball makes an interesting “throw away” comment:

We look to the crop of eager young lawyers to be inherently more adept at e-discovery than we who preceded them. After all, they have iPhones.

Craig (who I assume was being facetious), is confusing the comfort level of using technology, with an understanding of technology. They are not the same. Younger attorneys may have an advantage when it comes to using their PC or smartphone to get work done, by virtue of having grown up in a world where this is the norm. Much the same way that older folks used to joke about getting their 9 year old to program the VCR, that doesn’t mean the 9 year old knows how the VCR works. She is just comfortable using the menu to program it because she’s never not had one. Expecting that, because this young girl can program the VCR means that she will, undoubtedly, also understand how video tape gets written to, how the VCR adjusts for different playback speeds, how the broadcast is received by the television, etc. is folly. The ability to use an iPhone has nothing to do with knowing how to create a data-map, a deep understanding of PST files, using hash values to locate duplicate files, an understanding of metadata and forensics, or the hundreds of other things an attorney may run into in the course of an eDiscovery project.

It reminds me of the many organizations who’s use of social media is being directed by a 20 something employee fresh out of college who happens to have 500 friends on Facebook or Twitter, as if that somehow magically qualifies them to direct marketing strategy. It’s simply not the same thing.

Both of these examples bring to mind something else that has bothered me for a long time about the “generational diversity” presentations that I know you’ve all heard over and over, and which was described so well by Manager Tools just last week. In this case, just because an associate is young, doesn’t mean they are better with technology. Some are, and some aren’t. They are individuals, not an composite of the “average” for people their age, or from their culture.

For example,  if you meet another 41 year old, male, white Litigation Support Manager, chances are, they are a lot different than I am, you might want to take notice of that. Heck, they are probably less grumpy, if nothing else!

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