Author: Karin Ciano

Millennials Changing the Legal Landscape

by Alexis Raihle | April 12, 2019

Millennials: Instant gratification with the least amount of effort. Right? Why do they think they are special? Don’t they know they need to pay their dues just like we did? They don’t even know how to read a book anymore. I am surprised they can handle law school like we did before all their ‘devices’.

Does this sound all too familiar?

This, being the common perception of the Millennial generation, may fit some of its members. However, the Millennials are not a generation where one size fits all. They are in fact the generation that has made diversity and individuality the new norm.

There are 3 times as many Millennials (those born between 1981 – 1996) as there are Generation X-ers (those born between 1965 – 1980). In two short years, over 50% of the workforce will be composed of Millennials; within the next 10 years they will represent nearly 75% of the workforce. In 2017, Millennials represented 25% of the lawyers however, due to the substantial size of the Millennial generation and the rapid rate at which the Baby Boomers are retiring, the Millennials will not only build on the shoulders of the Baby Boomers, they will be laying the foundation for expanding the legal landscape and breaking new ground as well.

There is a misconception about the character, expectations, and potential of the Millennial lawyers. They are often perceived as lazy and having unrealistic expectations of a salary, advancement, and norms of the profession. The truth? Millennial lawyers in fact do not care as much about the big salaries, bonuses, and extravagant social events as the Baby Boomers perceive. They care much more about the environment and culture of the law firm and a healthy work/life balance. Some still desire and pursue the tiers of the traditional law firm hierarchy but many understand this prestige is determined by false indicators. The mindset that sets these Millennials apart is that the millennial lawyers seek advancement and success, but these goals are based on terms that makes sense to them as individuals and that fit within the context of their lives, which are unique from one another.

One size does not fit all lawyers, and technology and newly emerging firm structures have allowed a tremendous amount of diversity among the practice of law. The potential for success, innovation, and owning and operating a solo practice is endless, especially depending on how each millennial defines their success.

How do the Millennials separate themselves from the Baby Boomers? One word: Efficiency.

Millennials live in a world where information is readily available, resources are endless, innovation is constant, and organizational leadership is characterized by a more open and proactive approach. In other words, the firm and the profession can be molded to fit the needs of the lawyers who build it and can be modeled to play off the strengths of its parts rather than the lawyer being bent and broken to fit into the existing hierarchal structure that once defined the legal profession.

Technology has allowed this changing legal landscape and has promoted collaboration, efficiency, and growth that characterize the Millennials. Technology has allowed the solo practices and firms to operate efficiently and have quick, almost unlimited access to resources, case law, and contacts to meet the clients’ or firms’ needs. Collaboration among the legal community has improved because of the communication opportunities technology provides and encourages; lawyers can use technology to contact and conference in other lawyers, clients, courts, and other professionals without ever leaving their office. Millennials can now utilize technology to perform the tasks of a traditional legal secretary, run their entire office from a cell phone and a computer, and cut operation costs. 

Because of this technology, the traditional notion of a lawyers’ office has changed. No longer is every law office lined with law books and the ominous oak desk. The Millennials have utilized technology to allow many offices to go “paperless” and legal research tools like Lexis and Westlaw, eliminating the need for the law books that were once stained with coffee rings from the late nights of research by a lawyer. Some Millennials do not even have a traditional office. Instead, they communicate with their clients via email and text message and conduct their business and meetings in a rented space, in their own home, or in a public meeting place. Some do not need an office space, as most of the necessary work can be conducted on their computer and cell phone from their own home.

Law schools have contributed tremendously to this change. Millennials in law school today are taught to do legal research more efficiently using technology and research tools. The traditional law school classroom we envision from The Paper Chase has become a memory and has been replaced with classrooms encouraging hands on experience, collaboration, improved communication, clinical and practical opportunities, moot court competitions, mentorship by recent graduates, emphasis on volunteering, and a focus on the skills of legal writing and advocacy.

Lazy? Unmotivated? Instant gratification? I would beg to differ. I would argue that the Millennial lawyer has changed the legal landscape to accommodate the changing world at a similar pace in the most efficient way possible. Because the world has embraced diversity, collaboration, technology, communication, and free flowing information, the legal landscape has been remodeled to reflect the world that surrounds it.

Related:

How are age ranges defined for different generations?

Millennials projected to overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation

CCLI Welcomes Kathryn Meintsma!

Attorney Kathryn Meintsma of HealthRoad Legal focuses on Administrative Health Law and Family Law. Kathryn also offers unbundled legal services for those who need just “a little legal help”.

Asked about her practice in administrative health law, Kathryn writes: “I spent nearly three decades in the medical industry, helping physicians and nurses implement new medical technologies into clinical practice. It was a privilege to know skilled care providers and see the personal sacrifices they often made for their patients. I provide legal support to nurses, physicians, and allied health providers when they face the suspension or loss of their professional license.”

As for family law, Kathryn observes, “The first time many people hire a lawyer is when facing separation from a significant other, divorce, or custody arrangements for their minor children. Keeping parents involved in their children’s lives is particularly important when families come apart. During this stressful time, you need a compassionate lawyer who will focus on your concerns, explain your rights, and help you understand what to expect next. I offer low-cost, face-to-face consultations to help you sort through the issues, and reduced fee services based on income.”

Kathryn also offers unbundled or a-la-carte legal services.  “Today a large percentage of people file paperwork with the court system on their own behalf without the help of a lawyer. Most cite financial barriers to hiring a lawyer as the reason they ‘go it alone.’ I offer sliding-scale fee, limited-scope legal services for those who want help with contract review, paperwork completion, or with structuring a go-forward plan.”

Kathryn notes, “The stress resulting from an unresolved legal problem can undermine your wellness at every level. We all talk about paying attention to our physical, mental, and financial health, but we rarely talk about the importance of legal health. My law firm is called HealthRoad Legal because I believe that an effective, supportive lawyer can point out obstacles and opportunities that will impact your overall wellness, and help you reach the ‘new normal’ sooner. Choosing the right lawyer may be the on-ramp to legal health on your personal health road.”
Email Kathryn to schedule a consultation: Kathryn@healthroadlegal.com or visit HealthRoadLegal.com
HealthRoad Legal, PLLC. ° 393 Dunlap St. N., Ste. 450C, St. Paul, MN 55104 ° 612-217-1494

CCLI Welcomes Karen Grossman!

Karen Grossman has experienced first-hand the consequences of self-representation and is committed to providing quality legal counsel that is affordable.  She calls her firm Uplifting Legal because, as she has said, “I want to lift people up out of their legal maladies. I want to lift people up so they feel empowered. I want to lift up people who have records and have served their time through expungements so they can get jobs and housing.”

Karen received her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Mitchell Hamline College of Law in January 2018. While at Mitchell Hamline Karen earned the distinguished CALI award in Criminal Procedure and became a Minnesota Rule 114 Qualified Neutral and mediator.  Before law school, Karen graduated from Crown College, summa cum laude, with dual bachelor’s degrees in education and the Bible.  Karen has decades of experience teaching and running a business.

In her free time, Karen loves to travel with her family and friends. She visited her 50th state on December 7, 2016 where she participated in the 75th National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration in Hawaii. Other highlights are a six-week tour in Europe with a WWII emphasis, the total solar eclipse in 2017, the Albuquerque Balloon Fest in 2018, and plans for Oberammergau, Germany in 2020. When she is not traveling, Karen enjoys playing competitive board games with her husband of 33 years and two adult children.

Through her firm, Uplifting Legal, Karen provides legal services in housing, real estate, expungement, small business, elder law, and estate/probate.  You can contact her directly  at karen@upliftinglegal.com or by phone at (612) 564-2778.

Congratulations to Rebecca Sandefur, 2018 MacArthur Fellow

Professor Rebecca Sandefur has spent years researching access-to-justice issues in the context of civil legal services. Now she will be receiving a MacArthur ‘genius grant’ for her work, including this 2014 study of how people navigate the court system.  CCLI congratulates Professor Sandefur and looks forward to what she is able to achieve with the aid of the MacArthur Foundation.  Read more about the award here.

Why recruiting and retaining foreign-trained lawyers matters in Minnesota

On November 1, our own Marcos Ramirez of Nexum Legal PLLC will host a complimentary breakfast and elimination-of-bias CLE at 393 Dunlap Street, Saint Paul MN 55104, in the fourth floor conference room down the hall from the CCLI offices.  Breakfast will be provided starting at 7:45 am., and the presentation will start promptly at 8 a.m.

The panelists for this great event are:

  • Luis Reséndiz: Shareholder at Fredrikson & Byron
    • His personal experience as a foreign-trained lawyer in Minnesota
  • Paula Kanne:  Associate in the Corporate group at Dorsey & Whitney
    • How Minnesota corporations benefit by recruiting and retaining foreign-trained lawyers
  • Eric Cooperstein: Owner of the Law Office of Eric T. Cooperstein
    • Rules for multi-jurisdictional practice and Supreme Court petitions for admission rules amendments
  • Ann L. Gemmel: Assistant Director of Admissions at Mitchell Hamline School of Law
    • How law schools and the legal community would benefit from admission rules amendments

(1 credit of elimination of bias CLE credit has been applied for).

If you are interested in participating, please RSVP here. You can also view this event at http://www.nexumlaw.com

Why It’s So Hard to Ask a Lawyer for Advice

This summer while visiting my family, I reconnected with a good friend–a former mentor and teacher from middle school. We had coffee, reminisced, shared stories, hugged. A couple of weeks later, she emailed.

“I have a legal query for you and hope I am not out of line asking you this,” it began. “I have been thinking about putting together a will and have done some initial searching online to see if I can do this on my own. First question is this: am I crazy to try to do this without a lawyer’s assistance? Second question: if you think it’s a doable DIY personal project, does this website look as good to you as it does to me?”

She included a link, then added, “Thank you in advance for your kind response. And please know that if I AM so incredibly out of line asking you about making a will, you just have to say so and I will understand and never do it again.”

I began mentally composing the reply: Of course it’s not a problem. I get this question all the time. You’re not crazy… and then I paused. This is someone I met when I was 10. Outside of family there are few people who have known me longer, or better. And I wondered: What does it say that someone who knows me that well would hesitate to ask me a legal question? Are lawyers that scary?

Apparently so. Research suggests that a major reason people hesitate to call lawyers is fear–fear of being embarrassed, of being rejected, of losing control, of making things worse, of being stuck with a running meter and an unpayable bill. Compared to that, DIY seems safe and simple. What could be more straightforward than searching online for the solution to your problem? My friend seemed less concerned about drafting a will using an online form than about imposing on me. Which means she’s polite (of course), but also says a lot about how accessible lawyers seem to be, even to our friends.

Part of the value added by lawyers is that we can plug you into the living, breathing law. For example, you might have heard about recent changes to the tax law. Well, lawyers everywhere are retooling their advice based on what has happened. We’re human beings; not only can we do that, but we’re required to do that in order to be competent at our jobs. We keep up with the legal context so you don’t have to. Online forms? Not so much.

Don’t know what questions to ask? We do. For example:

  • We know that every written legal document (including wills) is interpreted according to some law. Which law? You have a choice: you can either specify the law in the document, or you can let a court decide later. Not every part of a form will work in every state. (That’s one reason lawyers are licensed by individual states, and limit their advice to the law of the states where they’re licensed).
  • We can “spot issues” and give you a sense of whether your situation is simple or complicated. In the first year of law school we’re trained in a mysterious art: we’re told facts about a situation that appears to be simple, and our mission is to spot all the things about it that could make it more complicated. This gives us a well-deserved reputation for making things complicated, but don’t let that intimidate you. Sometimes things are more complicated than they appear at first—and it is always better to know that before you make a decision, not after. And sometimes things are more straightforward to us than they may appear to you, just because it’s what we do for a living and we’ve seen it before.
  • We can point out red flags as well. Do you want to do something that the law won’t allow? We can tell you. Will the agreement you have in mind accomplish the result you seek? We will have an opinion. What will happen if members of your family don’t like your estate plan? We can run through scenarios and options. That’s what we do.

Back to my friend. I responded to her email with my thoughts, which boiled down to: you don’t have to choose between forms and lawyers. It’s okay to use both. If you want to get your thoughts on paper, use the form. Fill it out, get your wishes clear in your mind, and jot down questions. Then—if you want to be sure things will actually go the way you’d like them to go—visit a lawyer and run your form and your questions by someone whose business it is to make sure things turn out as planned. Ask for an estimate or quote: you may be surprised to learn that the lawyer can give you a form plus advice at a lower price than you’d expect.

I told her an uncomfortable truth: that, even though I’m a lawyer and I read a lot of wills as part of my job, I would not draft my own, because they’re more complicated than they look, and your mileage may vary dramatically from state to state. (I also had to admit that, although I had someone in mind to draft one for me, I hadn’t gotten around to it either.)

Bottom line? It’s okay to ask. Lawyers are paid to answer questions, but it’s on us to point out the boundary between just talking and paid consultation. If we can’t help, we may know someone who can. And for those readers with a law degree: remember how hard it is for people to connect with lawyers they can trust. Take a moment to answer questions, make referrals, and remind the public that lawyers are not as scary as all that.

Welcome Kristina Perez of Paloma Law Services!

Meet Kristina Perez.  Kristina is a native of Winona, MN. She grew up with a single mother, 3 brothers, and a sister. She helped care for her siblings from early on in life. As a result, she takes pride in encouraging and empowering others and loves problem-solving. She is the proud mom of an Olde English Bulldog named Bubba.  Asked to describe her practice, Kristina says, “I want to help people who are overwhelmed at a tough time in their lives, whether it is a family law matter, housing or employment matter, or an issue affecting our immigrant population in Southeastern Minnesota. I want to offer guidance and reassurance to people who otherwise might have trouble accessing legal services. Giving people a fair chance is important to me.”

You can reach Kristina at 507-961-0595 or kristina@palomalawservices.com, or visit her website.

Attempting the “impossible”

What is it like to study for the bar exam? It is akin to memorizing a full set of encyclopedia Britannica and understanding how the nuances of each word agree with and contradict the nuances of every other word. Basically, it is impossible. One bar prep instructor kindly pointed that out. His consolation was that it is also impossible for everyone else, so, “Don’t panic. Attempt the impossible.”

When I started bar prep, I explained to my friends that I would be unavailable while I was studying. They complied and left me alone to study. Now I wonder why all my friends deserted me. Bar prep is isolating. Depressing. Impossible. Sometimes I cry. I quit. How could I even think about quitting when I look back at all it took to get me this far? I am irrational.

I have wanted to become an attorney for almost fifty years, since I was twelve. Finally, after my own kids got their degrees and careers, I took a year and studied for the LSAT. The LSAT is the entrance exam that requires you to know where Sam would sit if he was two chairs to the left of Renee and never saw a doctor on Sunday. I still don’t know how the LSAT applies to practicing law. I’m not alone. The LSAT is no longer required for Harvard and Georgetown law schools. I took it twice.

My job did not allow me to go to law school in the traditional way, so when a friend told me about law schools in California that were entirely online, I immediately applied. The caveat is, if I was in the lucky 5% of the class who passed the first year, and then passed the “Baby Bar” required to take years the next 2-4 years, and graduated, I would still be allowed to practice only in California. I live in Minnesota.

Just as I was about to enroll in my second year of online law school in California, William Mitchell (now Mitchell Hamline) announced that it was starting a Hybrid program that would allow people to study part online, and part concentrated study on campus. I would have to start over, but then I could practice where I live. To my amazement I was accepted to the law school of my dreams. William Mitchell was where my hero, Rosalie Wahl, went. Justice Wahl was the reason I never let go of my dream over the years. Justice Wahl did not go to law school until her kids were older. It is never too late to follow your dream.

I am pretty sure I was the happiest person who walked across that stage in May. No one told me that bar prep is this horrendous and would cause me to question my own sanity. If they did, I did not believe them. (I studied Greek, in Portuguese, in Brazil—without knowing Portuguese. Bar prep is worse.) I have a newfound awe for anyone who ever passed the bar. They are superheroes who did the impossible. I am not a superhero–but still, I will attempt the impossible in three weeks.

Karen Grossman, the author of this post, externed for CCLI in 2017, graduated from Mitchell Hamline in 2018 and will take the Minnesota bar shortly.  We wish her fulfillment of her “impossible” dream!