An Online Publication of The Chicago Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section
Post authored by Lindsey L. Purdy
One of the most valuable pieces of advice about the practice of law I have received to date was from my father. Nearing forty years in service to his clients, whether they be the individuals and businesses he represented in private practice or the U.S. Government, he has a lot of wisdom to impart. My father is the kind of attorney I aspire to be. He’s collegial with opposing counsel and always extends the ultimate courtesy to both the Bench and members of the Bar. He is also not a self-promoter. My father won the first case he ever took to the Iowa Supreme Court. It was an appeal from his first jury trial. As his daughter, I only learned about this when our first year law school class had to search our own last name on the Westlaw database for an assignment. I immediately e-mailed him and asked him about it. His response? “Oh, that takes me back.”
For a man who typically undersells himself to such an extent, you can imagine it was somewhat startling when he very seriously offered me a bit of unsolicited advice my first year in practice. Like most first year attorneys, I was panicked over some small detail which ultimately ended up to be miniscule in the greater scheme of a case. Observing me furiously fielding e-mails on my cellphone over a holiday, he looked at me and sternly said, “Lindsey, you don’t work a job. You are a member of a profession. Remember that. There are times to respond quickly, but you shouldn’t lessen the quality of your advice to your client by viewing the contents of your e-mail inbox as a “to-do” list. You manage the case for your client. Your email inbox doesn’t manage you.”
For the past five years now, I have been mulling over this phrase – “a member of a profession”. What does it mean for our generation of attorneys? Gone are the days of the opinion letter, and here are the days of the five minute e-mail or the two minute text message. Aside from the rapid-fire response required to advise a client (or the senior attorney advising the client), millennial attorneys face increasing demands on our time which are compounded by technology. Whether your days are spent reviewing police bodycam footage, voluminous business records as part of due diligence, thousands of documents prepared “in furtherance of litigation”, or just an overflowing e-mail inbox, we simply have more data to digest then those who came before us. It has become an exceedingly fair question to ask: do we manage this data or does this data manage us?
With the advent of ESI, the skillset required of associate attorneys has shifted drastically in the past thirty years. Whereas before junior attorneys had the opportunity to become proficient in so-called “soft skills” by observing more senior attorneys, the increasing demands of technology frequently dictate we spend our time in front of a computer reviewing data. This results in less face-time not only with senior attorneys, but, frequently, one another. As a result, millennial attorneys can feel more disconnected from the profession at large and each other.
However, if technology poses the problem, can it also be the solution? In 1971, David C. Hilliard founded the Young Lawyers Section of the Chicago Bar Association to facilitate dialogue and bolster camaraderie among the Chicago Bar’s more junior members. In 2018, the YLS Executive Council approved the creation of the @theBar Blog to accomplish the same objective. Building on the success of Past Chair Jonathan Amarilio and the @theBar Podcast featured on the LegalTalk Network, it is our hope to create a virtual hub for Chicago’s young lawyers to showcase their legal knowledge, be recognized for their achievements, and – most importantly – support one another. We invite you to join the conversation.
Lindsey L. Purdy
About the Author
Lindsey L. Purdy is an associate attorney and trial lawyer at the Collins Law Firm, P.C., where she concentrates her practice on Bet-the-Company and other complex commercial litigation. Lindsey is currently the Assistant Editor of YLS Journal and Administrator of the YLS Blog @theBar. Click here for Lindsey’s full bio.