Is Mentoring For You?
A Look at Formal Mentoring in the Legal Field
Friday, January 15, 2016
by: Angela Kirk, Esq., Manley Deas Kochalski

Section: WILLed Q1 2016

Formalized Mentoring in the Legal Field

The following statistics on mentoring were compiled by John Montgomery, of the Nelson Mullins Center on Professionalism & member of NLMC Executive Committee show evidence of the traction formalized mentorship is gaining in the legal industry: There are approximately 25 statewide formal mentoring programs now in operation. Of these programs, roughly 25% are mandatory and 75% voluntary. Approximately 12,000 newly admitted lawyers now are formally mentored through statewide mentoring programs each year—about 25% of all lawyers admitted nationally each year.
The Legal Mentoring Trend
Legal mentoring is certainly not new to the legal profession but there does appear to be a trend toward formalizing the legal mentoring process.  Seeing this trend, WILL decided to make legal mentorship one of its foundational pillars and the focus of this inaugural publication of WILLEd.  While there is no formal mentoring program through WILL at this time, WILL recognizes both the importance and the necessity of legal mentorship and hopes to foster and promote mentorship among its members and the members of ALFN.   

My Experience with Legal Mentoring
Have you ever thought that you would like to be a mentor but are not sure how to go about it? Several years ago, after having my second child, I was feeling a little disconnected from my career. While I was still committed to my chosen career path, I realized that I needed something "more," but didn’t know what that could be or where it would be found.  I decided to begin by networking and hoped that by putting myself out there, I would find the missing "more," At my very first networking event I met Lori Keating, the Secretary to the Commission on Professionalism for the Supreme Court of Ohio and the Chair of the National Legal Mentoring Consortium. While talking, she told me about the Ohio Supreme Court's Lawyer to Lawyer mentoring program. 

The Supreme Court of Ohio began a pilot mentoring program in 2006, and it was adopted as a permanent part of new lawyer training in 2008. The program matches experienced lawyers with brand new lawyers to help integrate the new lawyers into the profession. Ohio is a leader in the national legal mentoring movement and was the second state to incorporate mentoring into its new lawyers training curriculum. The program averages a 68% participation rate and, to date, 4857 new lawyers have been matched since the program began.

To qualify as a mentor, the attorney must have been in practice for at least 5 years, be in good standing with the Supreme Court, and carry malpractice insurance. To get placed as a mentee, the applicant should sign up for the program within 60 days of passing the bar. Mentors and mentees can request placement with a particular person or be matched randomly.

Before the mentor and mentee meet, there are orientation meetings. At the meeting for the mentors, there is a thorough review of the program and helpful suggestions for cultivating a relationship with the mentee. The mentoring relationship is one year in length and broken down into quarters, each with a theme and a menu of suggested activities, with certain activities that are required. For example, the first quarter's theme is "The Legal Community & the Community at Large" and it is required that one of the suggested activities been completed during that quarter. Some suggested activities include a tour of the court house, attending bar association events together, and even meeting at the mentor's offices to introduce the new lawyer to other lawyers.  The second quarter is "Personal & Professional Development and Ethics," the third is "Law Office Management" and the fourth is "Client Communication, Advocacy, and Negotiation,"  In addition to the suggested activities, the program arms the mentor with resources and articles from which to draw to help with a wide range of topics including substance abuse in the profession, choosing a career path, and how to improve the mentoring relationship, just to name a few.

To this day, I'm not sure if it was the program itself or Lori's passion for it, but I was hooked, and I immediately volunteered to be a mentor. Having never mentored before, I was relieved when I discovered that the program had formal mentoring materials and a suggested schedule of events to help guide the relationship. I am now in my third mentoring relationship and have greatly enjoyed each experience. 

In my case, I would say that I have definitely benefitted from my experience as a mentor. Working with new lawyers and counseling them in the beginning stages of their career has served to deepen my connection with my own career and my chosen profession. More importantly, the legal community is best served when young lawyers have experienced lawyers willing to help with not only practical matters but also issues like professionalism, navigating office politics, client management, and a host of other issues that simply can't be taught in the classroom. I encourage you to get out there and find out how you can get involved by becoming a mentor or a mentee, as the experience can really be really rewarding personally and professionally, while strengthening the core of our industry at the same time.

However, you don't need a formal mentoring program to develop a mentor-mentee relationship.  Often times, budget restrictions prevent State Supreme Courts or local bar associations from creating formal mentoring projects.  However, there is a vast array of materials online that can assist you.  If you are interested in learning more about legal mentorship on a national basis,  The National Legal Mentoring Consortium (NLMC), is an organization dedicated to strengthening the profession by encouraging mentorship opportunities. NLMC strives to promote the exchange of ideas related to mentorship in the legal profession and aid in the creation of mentorship opportunities within firms, bar organizations, and other entities within the legal profession.  The NLMC’s website ( is a great resource for more information, included articles, books, and videos on mentoring. 
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