Can I Tell Junior Attorneys to Put Their Phones Away?

by Emily George 15. August 2013 13:48

Dear Jane,

Some of our junior attorneys don't understand that texting in a meeting is rude. How do I bring it up to them? Would I be out of line if I brought it up/am I the one in the wrong?




Dear Put-Your-Phone-Away:

One of the biggest generational disconnects in the legal workplace today is a lack of transparency about expectations. The golden rule, as you know, is do unto others as you would like to be done unto. That rule does not work in a diverse workplace, so I’d ask you to now consider implementing the platinum rule: do unto others as they would like to be done unto. You cannot make the assumption that someone else’s reaction will be the same as yours. You know that it is inappropriate to utilize smart phones in a meeting, but the Generation Y attorneys assume that unless someone says something to the contrary, they can stay connected 24/7 (If you think about it, law firms send a pretty strong message that the expectation is that they are available 24/7 which serves to confirm their intuitive presumption). Instead of allowing their behavior to get under your skin and potentially undermine your view of their judgment, please clearly articulate your expectations at the next meeting with regard to their use of smart phones during the meeting. I’m betting it will solve the problem immediately and they will meet your expectations.

Jane DiRenzo Pigott is the managing director of R3 Group LLC, specializing in working with professional service organizations on leadership and change in connection with diversity and inclusion. Before founding R3 Group, she practiced law for more than two decades at large law firms where she chaired a practice group, served on the executive management and compensation committees, and founded and ran diversity initiatives and affinity groups.

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Dear Jane

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