Okay, Boomers: This one is for you

March 25, 2022

President’s Message By Joseph R. Williams

It’s already the end of March. Spring is here. The first quarter of 2022 is complete. And my term as ACBA President is entering its last few months.

When I started writing President’s Messages last July, I did not know where to begin. Most of the readers of this publication have been living and practicing law longer than I have, so I was keenly aware that there wasn’t much that I could say that the many great ACBA Presidents who came before me had not already written.

I decided to write from the one perspective that made me unique: I am the first Millennial to serve as ACBA President. I wrote on behalf of my generation with the hope that I could express how we see the world and the practice of law a little differently than many of those who came before us.

I never expected that my President’s Messages would generate the reaction that they have, but my inbox and my mailbox have been flooded with feedback for the last several months. And while most of the remarks that I have received have been overwhelmingly generous, some of our seasoned members have shared that they aren’t as enthusiastic about what I have to say. Call it a truce?

One of the things that makes the Millennials great is that they know what they stand for and they want to facilitate change. Millennials do not like the phrase “this is how we have always done it” and are constantly looking for ways to make things more efficient and easier to complete. But you know what, Baby Boomers? You are also pretty great. If we do not say it enough, we should. There is a lot that we have learned from you and there is a lot that we can continue to learn from you.

After all, Baby Boomers, you were the first influencers. You were post-war babies who grew up to be the radicals of the 1970s and the yuppies of the 1980s. You were not afraid to tell the world how your generation saw things during the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the sexual revolution. The “American Dream” was promised to you as children, and you fully pursued it. Many Baby Boomers were the first in their family to attend college and blazed their way into rapidly expanding professions, including law.

We also recognize that you, the Baby Boomer lawyers, took our trade to new places. Much of the law as we know it is because of you. Many of the seminal cases impacting our practice were litigated by Boomer lawyers. When you weren’t developing case law, you were working with the legislature to create statutes and rules that created uniformity, efficiency and consistency for the litigants we serve. You started law firms that became larger and more successful than you could have ever imagined, and you made legal departments and in-house counsel positions what they are today. You understood the importance of our Bar Association and led the ACBA to new horizons.

Boomers, you knew the importance of hard work. You often saw the office before sunrise and stayed well past sunset. You sacrificed time with family, friends and hobbies because you cared about what you did and wanted to do good work. There was no work from home policy, there was only an option to also work from home. Unlike today’s lawyers, you couldn’t fill up your billable day by returning emails or taking Zoom meetings.  Worst of all, you spent your associate years doing research with books. And typewriters. And sometimes you had to walk across town to a library to access them. Insert audible gasp here.

Now that many of you are handing your practices, positions and the bar association over to Gen-Xers and Millennials who you never fully understood, I will let you in on a secret. We have been watching you this whole time. We have learned from you. Even when we don’t do it the way that you did, we know that your way worked well. Because of you, things will be fine. That’s right, David Pollock. Even though I rolled my eyes at you a few times during those first couple of years, it is because of you that I enter my time every single day, always look at the Rules before I ask questions, and know that above all else hard work will prevail.

Thank you, Baby Boomers, for paving the way for the rest of us.