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Taking the Reins

March 19, 2007

I attended an intriguing workshop at the Equal Justice Conference in Philadelphia last March. The session took place during a gap in programs that I had to attend for work and happened to be on the 33rd floor of the Loews Hotel – which has one of the best views of Philadelphia in my opinion – so I made my way up to the packed room and sat in on The Legal Services Movement: Keeping the Flame Burning Beyond the Boomer Generation.

At the workshop I learned that over seventy-five percent of federally funded legal aid programs have executive directors with over twenty years of director experience. Many of these directors have argued the high impact cases that we learned about in law school; in some cases, when the directors were only a few years out of law school temselves.

The workshop focused on how legal services organizations can successfully transfer the knowledge and experience of these seasoned leaders to the younger generation. The panel concentrated on how to retain attorneys with more than 5 years of legal services experience to decrease the current gap that exists between attorneys with over 20 years of experience and those with less than 5 years of experience. The panel focused on reducing student loan debt, while the attendees concentrated on the idea that more seasoned attorneys need to permit and guide (or at least stop automatically and immediately dismissing) younger attorneys when they bring up novel law suits and to stop taking the attitude that “that’s not how we do things around here.”

Do you think young attorneys – in legal services, government or private practice – will be able to sufficiently take the reins in the future when older attorneys, who have been in their positions for longer than some young attornesy have been alive, finally step aside? Are we already doing so? What can more seasoned attorneys do to assist this transition?

loews-view.jpg

The view from Loews.

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