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June 15, 2009

Wanted: One Huntin' Dog.


One gift of The Recession is that it has improved the work ethic of people of all ages, including people born after 1978. That's the idea, anyway. And it does make sense. Not sure I buy it, though.

For more than two decades, I've worked closely (i.e., every work day at least for a year) with dozens of associates with very fine resumes assigned tough things to do. It's always interesting to see who "gets it" the fastest, and who catches on fire with a yen for more. Practicing under constant pressures is not for everyone--but it's a great way to learn, grow and grow up.

But there is still a steady decline in young "huntin' dogs" in my shop and others. They talk a good game, especially at the interview--but weeks later they are never eager to help, or even around, when things get really tough. A customer or client emergency. A backlog in work. The unexpected--but that which can be solved. They are not there at midnight the two or three times a year you need that problem-solving.

Nice kids...but not people you want in the foxhole. To even the most irreverent or laid-back Boomer, it's a character thing.

The Recession? It's not changing anything. That's not their problem. It will "go away". Someone else will fix it for them. We're not just talking about associates, law students and legal assistants here. Maybe (a) the vast majority of younger workers never expected that work (or life) would be that "hard", and (b) high schools, colleges and graduate schools aren't helping to prepare them for the challenges of working for a good customer or client no matter what.

Life and Work do cruelly collide. You are sick. You are exhausted. Depressed. Your wife just left you. You were in a bad car accident two weeks ago. A close friend suddenly dies. Your boyfriend just confessed that he's been cheating on you. Your husband loses his job.

A child has trouble adjusting to a new school. A sibling is dying over a period of months or years while you, helpless, watch. A scare: You or yours may have cancer. Parents are failing. Your youngest may have some degree of autism.

These things will be part of anyone's--everyone's--life at work. And for a professional, and those key people who assist them, you can't call in and say "sorry, just too much life today--I can't make it".

The unexpected, the jarring, the tragic or the just plain annoying happens to you. This is part of the "terrain" of being a professional. No unemployed pseudo-consultant, or W-L balance proponent, can look you in the eye and tell you that, at those times, you can ever separate Work from Life.


I don't mean to be morose, or dramatic. But these days do happen. You are impaired, distracted, despairing. Sure, you get a few breaks from loved ones and colleagues.

But know this: On those very same days, you will have a deadline, an appearance in court, a deal, or a promise to keep. And the only prayer a good client may have is you. You are it.

I simply do not see people coming out of American schools these days who remotely understand the pain (and greatness) of being a professional on those isolated days--the ones that really define us. Those people are not currently in the pipeline. Don't expect many huntin' dogs for a long, long while. We bred and raised generation weenie. And weenies, of course, are all we're getting.

One Solution: "Buy Boomer". Time to solve the problem. Think a bit. How can you be sure that new recruits--even part-times and temps--aren't just wasting your time? Well, at my firm, we may "Go Old". Boomers. Say what you want about us. But we are there when you need us--and you don't even have to ask. We feel your pain. We never ever give up. Our parents and grandparents fought in horrible and important Great Wars. Working Well. Doing Our Job. It's the least we can do to pay them back.

Nothing beats having a Boomer in your office when it's time to get things done. We're irreverent, and fun, too. Energy, hustle, charm. Do-or-die. Have a nearly overwhelming sense of cultural identity. Loyal. Hardworking. Generation Moxie. You want something done? Done right? Then Buy Boomer.

Consider going straight to the top, for the best, and work from there:

HELP WANTED: Of counsel for growing and energetic Pittsburgh-based boutique business law firm with publicly-traded clients to die for. Candidate must have at least 8 years of highest level federal Exec. Branch experience, world-wide connections, Yale Law degree, one year at Oxford, own money and people skills. Crowd-pleaser. Must be able to sell anything to anyone.

And be originally from Hope, Arkansas. State government experience preferred but not required. Same for participation in Renaissance weekends, and fund-raising. United Nations experience also a big plus. You don’t need to re-locate. Happy to set up the office for you. Wherever you want. Harlem or Chappaqua, New York are okay. Or DC. You decide. You can work out of your house. Whatever.

NOTE: No previous private law practice experience necessary. Not a problem–no problem at all. Excellent benefits package.

Source of Help Wanted Ad: An earlier WAC? post, when the economy was better.

Posted by JD Hull at June 15, 2009 01:31 AM


Instead of trying to recruit the Big Dog, go after underdogs. You'll find them at your local third-tier law school--in the evening division. They work all day, go to class at night, study all weekend. In short: they have a tried-and-tested work ethic. Many of them come with an attitude you may like: a chip on their shoulder, something to prove.

Posted by: Ray Ward at June 14, 2009 05:40 PM

Ray: You are right--and reading our mind. That's in fact sub-part b of Plan A. Hire (a) Boomers and (b) poor kids with an attitude. We're done with those with no drive. And we are patiently waiting for Gen-X to have kids. Dan

Posted by: Hull at June 15, 2009 10:58 AM

Ray or Dan,

I am a (b), can we talk sometime!?


Posted by: elizabeth at June 15, 2009 12:37 PM

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