There is always a point in life when you suddenly realise that you have become your own father. You will see it coming – you begin to ask for the music to be turned down in restaurants, order the starter portion only and find the way much younger people speak increasingly irritating.
I was interviewing under-graduate candidates for a summer vacation placement a week or so ago. They all had terrifying CVs, up to their knees in A-grades, school captain of this, doing that for charity, playing the other for fun. My passing interest in old aeroplanes would clearly not really cut it on the legal job search front any longer. And yet, although they were keen as anything, well-presented and clearly frightfully clever academically, there was a problem.
We were looking for the early signs of someone who, with a bit of legal training, could one day be put in front of grown-up clients with a reasonable degree of confidence on our part. If we assume that statistically most grown-up clients will be people “of a certain age”, we can also assume that they too will find themselves not listening to the advice being given, but mentally cringing under the barrage of “likes” and “you knows”, and grinding their teeth as the inflection on each sentence rises at the end. Despite the excellence of their CVs, some of the oral presentation skills were, like, appalling.
Which begs the question – whose problem is this? Is it mine, because I have failed to come to terms with the way another generation speaks, or is it theirs because they have watched too much Friends and/or Neighbours and are no longer able to see that “like” in particular will get right up the nose of people they should really be trying not to alienate? In turning down some of the worst offenders for that reason, am I being ageist, imposing the same sort of indirect prejudices as led employers fifty years ago not to employ women in certain roles “because the client would never wear it”? Or am I merely rejecting those who have failed to show that they are mentally prepared for the transition from school and celeb-speak to a professional environment, whether it be through their use of language, spiky haircuts or ties with David Beckham knots?
I suppose that if challenged in Tribunal I must just hope that the Claimant gives evidence in person, in which case the problem will, you know, speak for itself.