Sunday, July 17, 2011

Explaining The Generational Divide At Work

From Inside Straight, a regular column by Mark Herrmann at Above The Law, comes two explanations for younger lawyers why their supervisors are unreasonable and inefficient. It may apply generally.
Years ago (long before MapQuest was even a gleam in its inventor’s eye), an older lawyer sent me directions for driving to his home. It was pretty easy to get from my apartment to his house; I had to make only three or four turns. But the directions were several typed pages long. Why?

Because this guy had been driven insane by mistakes in the past. He had told someone to turn east on a road, and the person had turned west. So now the directions eliminated that possible mistake: “Turn east (that is, turn right as you are proceeding northbound on route 1) at the light.” Someone else had missed the turn. So now the directions eliminated that possible mistake: “If you see a shopping mall followed by a McDonald’s on the right side of the road, then you have gone too far. Turn around, go back to the light, and turn east (that is, left as you are now proceeding southbound on route 1) at the light.” Having experienced all of these mistakes, the older lawyer felt compelled to help me avoid them, which made his driving directions nearly incomprehensible.

What does this have to do with being a lawyer?

As you age, you are driven insane by mistakes that you’ve made (or seen others make) in the past.

Good essays. But mostly, I wanted to have an introduction to the idea of giving directions, and spatial memory.


Texan99 said...

You've got to know your audience! For some people, the merest suggestion of directions is sufficient. For others, no amount of detail will suffice.

The numbering system on our rural road is confusing; it counts up along one side and then back down along the other, so there's no obvious relationship between numbers on opposite sides. Many of the houses are obscured from the road by trees or brush, so you have to keep an eye peeled for gates and gravel drives. Some workmen or deliverymen have no problem, especially since we've placed an absolutely huge brightly painted number sign on the gate by the road. Others simply will not find the place unless we give them detailed instructions including the color of the gate and the information that they won't be able to see the house from the road: they've been known to drive right by the gate and number sign repeatedly, back and forth. As for directions that make use of the compass directions, forget it! It reminds me again of the Monty Python skit I linked to below.

Sam L. said...

Got to know your audience. And the ground. And the map.