DTCI: Be a good lawyer, but also be a good mentor

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By Libby Valos Moss
As I sat in my office trying to decide on a topic for this article, I reached out to my colleagues. Our conversation quickly turned toward the value and importance of a young associate having a good mentor. We tend to get so caught up in our own cases and running our law firms that we overlook the importance of teaching new lawyers. I have been fortunate to have had some great mentors during my career. The following is my list of things I have learned over the years in striving to be a good mentor.

1. Teach advocacy along with civility. While you must advocate zealously for your client, you can do so while being polite, professional, and without making it personal. We all want our new lawyers to learn to be good advocates, but a good mentor can teach one to do so with respect and civility toward opposing counsel.

2. Give praise for a job well done. It can be much easier to point out all the mistakes someone made and overlook the accomplishments. Praising a younger lawyer can go a long way to boost confidence. You do not have to throw a party, give an award, or shout it to the world; a simple “nice job” will do the trick.

3. However, when a mistake has been made, talk directly to the new lawyer about a problem, not behind his or her back. It is so easy to be disappointed with the way a new lawyer has handled something and – instead of talking to him directly – complain to your colleagues. While it may not be the most comfortable conversation, the new lawyer will learn to appreciate your being forthright and direct. He cannot learn from a mistake if he doesn’t know a mistake has been made.

4. Give criticism in a respectful manner. I hear too many horror stories from my colleagues and former classmates about partners yelling, throwing tantrums, and being condescending toward younger associates when pointing out mistakes. Chances are, the new lawyer will only remember the way you acted instead of what was done wrong and how it could be done differently. Your goal should be to teach, not to intimidate, which will certainly result in a better work product the next time you assign a project.

5. Encourage creative thinking. When teaching young associates, don’t just tell them what to do. Sit down and brainstorm with them to identify the problem and assist in reaching a solution that is good for the client. Allowing associates to talk and think through a problem will go a long way toward teaching them independence and that not all lawsuits and/or problems are to be resolved in the same fashion.

6. Teach humility. In the world of law, you will lose some and you will win some. Nobody likes a bad loser or a bad winner. Either way, do it with grace.

Whether you agree with my list or not, try to be a good mentor. Someone may even thank you some day.•

Ms. Moss is a partner in the Indianapolis office of Kightlinger & Gray and sits on the board of directors of the DTCI. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.


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  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.