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DTCI: Mentoring – taking care of lawyering business

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dtci-muse-cindyGuess what? Unless you keep your office door closed, don’t talk on the telephone and don’t use email/Facebook/Twitter, you mentor every working day. Mentoring in our careers as legal professionals means that through working relationships with others, we grow professionally and oftentimes personally. Those relationships can be formal or informal, recognized or unrecognized, appreciated or unappreciated. But they are all around us every hour of every day:

• a colleague who stops by your open office door to run a case by you for your thoughts;

• a paralegal who emails you for suggestions on a document she is drafting;

• a co-worker’s son who is considering law as a profession and needs some advice from you; and

• an attorney who is newly admitted to the bar but still trying to find the “right” job.

All these and more are mentoring opportunities. Guess what again? Those opportunities will not only help the mentee to grow professionally through his relationship with you, but you also will be rewarded by growing professionally and personally, too.

So, where to start?

A few tips for mentees

Have a sense of what you need or are looking for. Do you need a one-time consult to answer a specific question, or are you looking for a go-to person who can guide you over time? Be able to define the parameters of the relationship for the potential mentor.

Keep your head up, your eyes wide open and your ears perked because mentoring is everywhere, and there are lots of folks who are willing to help if you just ask. This leads to the third tip.

Ask. Don’t wait for your boss, teacher or significant other to recognize that you would benefit from mentoring and initiate the relationship for you. Rather, recognize it yourself, identify potential mentors and ask.

Once you’ve asked, be persistent and follow up. Those who mentor are often the busiest of the busy, so politely remind them you are still out there needing their expertise.

Appreciate your mentors. Thank them for their time and effort. An appreciated mentor will be part of your professional network for years to come.

A few tips for mentors

Be approachable. Open your door, respond to emails and phone calls, engage less-experienced attorneys in conversation at continuing education seminars, and participate in law and office functions.

Once approached, listen to what is being asked. Stop reading, typing or talking. Give the mentee your full attention.

And if you can, don’t judge or criticize. Understand that the person seeking your help is searching and may not know exactly where to search or how to speak the special language we’ve developed in Indiana’s legal community.

To keep mentees coming back, be responsible and dependable. Carry through on what you have promised, even if you’ve blown the target date.

Keep your eyes open and ears perked for opportunities that might match up with folks you know are seeking some answers or guidance.

Continue to develop your own professional network. Until it happens, you don’t know when you may need the assistance of your colleagues to find the “right” job for you or to give you practice pointers in an unfamiliar area of the law.

For both mentees and mentors

Get involved in the legal community or community at large. Participating in an organization with a mission that benefits others is a great way to broaden your knowledge and expand your network to include folks in and outside the legal profession. Plus, it is rewarding … you will make a difference!•

__________

Ms. Muse is an attorney in the Indianapolis office of State Farm Litigation Counsel and is a member of the DTCI. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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