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

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
moss-libby-mug Moss

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.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Lori, you must really love wedding cake stories like this one ... happy enuf ending for you?

  2. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  3. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

  4. We have been on the waiting list since 2009, i was notified almost 4 months ago that we were going to start receiving payments and we still have received nothing. Every time I call I'm told I just have to wait it's in the lawyers hands. Is everyone else still waiting?

  5. I hope you dont mind but to answer my question. What amendment does this case pretain to?