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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. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  2. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  3. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  4. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  5. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

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