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« GEN X: PREPPED TO LEAD OR FACING A MID-LIFE CRISIS? | Main | EMPATHY IN THE WORKPLACE »

TRANSITIONING THE CULTURE WITH GEN X TAKING THE LEAD

At Cravath, Swaine & Moore, perhaps the best known and historically conservative "white shoe' law firm, no revolution has been necessary. Increasingly over the last decade, as described in a story  by Gina Cron in the Wall Street Journal (May 28, 2010), at Cravath, Younger Guns Ride Herd, a new group of partners in their 30s and 40s (Gen X) have decided to stop waiting to be called.

They are building new relationships and taking on work that historically was handled by partners in their 50s. Abandoning the deferential culture of forwarding deals up the seniority line, the Gen X partners wanted to work on those deals themselves now and not wait. They have gone after the clients and kept them. Unlike the situation in some firms, the Cravath senior partners don't mind, and they nurture the new environment.

Why? For one thing, their compensation is not affected with the lockstep system. The younger partners' more aggressive style means they get to make a name for themselves at an earlier age - and the older partners continue to thrive with less burden. This is essential to motivate transitioning. The Baby Boomers generally are happy to ease up somewhat and not be aggressive if their compensation is not an issue. They also think that the younger guys should be working with their banker peers.

The senior partners didn't want to do hostile takeovers, but the younger partners were happy to jump into the fray. The results so far indicate it's working out for everyone: the partners, the team and the clients. The firm is getting more marquee deals and the Gen X partners are getting their chance to shine without knocking the Boomers out of the way.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

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