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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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