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ISBA seeks mentors

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

For attorneys who have practiced for a long time, it might be easy to forget what it was like right out of law school. No network – or at least nothing like the one they hopefully have a few years out; possibly no job; and possibly most important – likely no clue of what it really means to be a lawyer with little or no safety net if one does make a mistake.

While medium or large firms tend to have a formal or informal mentoring program for new associates, attorneys who have recently passed the bar but don’t have a built-in mentoring network at their firm, or have decided to hang a shingle as a solo, or prefer to have a mentor not at their firm may not have a mentor – yet.
 

mentor Kandi Hidde, left, has mentored Sonia Chen, right, since shortly after she joined Bingham McHale in Indianapolis. Chen said she appreciated just knowing Hidde is there if she needs her. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

To help them, and attorneys who have mentors at their employer but are looking for other mentors, the Indiana State Bar Association announced at the annual meeting on Oct. 15 that they will offer a structured mentoring program that would include six continuing legal education credits for the mentor and the mentee.

Attorneys who participate can receive the CLE credit either by having the ISBA pair them up, or by starting their own mentor-mentee relationship, as long as they follow the guidelines of the program and sign up through the ISBA, said Maryann Williams, director of section services for the ISBA.

Seasoned attorneys who are starting a new venture and would like guidance from someone with more experience in that area can also sign up to be paired with a mentor. However, mentors need to have at least five years of practice to sign up.

The curriculum must be completed within one year of entering into a mentoring agreement. The various requirements focus on professional development, civility, and ethics. By having mentors explain these concepts to new attorneys, the program will also affect how the new lawyers are perceived by and interact with the general public.

Specific requirements for the program – as well as the forms attorneys can fax or mail to the ISBA – are available on the ISBA’s website, www.inbar.org, under ISBA Links at the link for “Mentor Match.” Online applications will not be accepted but attorneys will get a response from the ISBA shortly after their mailed or faxed application is received, Williams said.

Within 30 days of signing the contract, the mentor and mentee will choose and report on how they will address the required topics in the coming year. Mentors will meet with their mentees at least six times in person, for a total of at least nine hours.

Activities suggested include for the mentor to introduce the mentee to the legal community and community at large, including introductions to attorneys and personnel at the mentor’s law firm and court staff; and other helpful information for the new attorney, including prison procedures, and how to get involved with local legal aid and pro bono agencies.

Mentors are also required to discuss substance abuse and mental health topics with their mentees.

To get the program started, the ISBA is seeking at least 500 attorneys as mentors and as of Oct. 21 they had about seven or eight, Williams said. Since the swearing in of new attorneys on Oct. 15, she has received seven or eight applications per day from new lawyers, and expects she’ll receive many more in the weeks to come.

She planned to start pairing up attorneys the week of Oct. 25.

She thinks more lawyers will sign up to be mentors when they learn more about the program and available CLE credit.
 

Inskeep Inskeep

“I think mentoring goes both ways,” Kenneth Inskeep, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis who was featured in the video to promote the Mentor Match program, told Indiana Lawyer.

The video, which features Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Nancy Vaidik, and retired Monroe Circuit Court Judge Viola Taliaferro, among others, is available online at http://vimeo.com/15774263.

“The best relationship is one where not only are you sharing your experience and knowledge after practicing for some period of time, but also includes the opportunity to learn what’s in the head of new lawyers as they start out,” Inskeep said. “Technology is ever evolving and attitudes are changing, so it’s helpful as a trial lawyer to stay connected to what people younger than me are thinking.”

He added mentoring is especially needed more now than ever, because lawyers aren’t as accessible to each other as they once were.

“It used to be you went to coffee shop on the town square, the lawyer hangout, and you could eavesdrop as the old codgers told tales of practicing law,” he said. “When you went to a different county, you’d get local counsel to help you because so much of it was very local and local lawyers were very connected. … Now lawyers practice in a much broader geography but have a much more narrow substantive practice.”
 

McMillian McMillian

While he has mentored a number of young attorneys in his almost 30 years of practice, starting when he was only a few years out of law school himself, one of his mentees, Jimmie “Tic Tac” McMillian, now a partner at Barnes & Thornburg who started there in 2004, called their pairing “a match made in heaven” on the video to promote the program.

McMillian said Inskeep was there for him whenever he needed help, including meetings for lunch, dinner, and the occasional late night phone call, and the help he received was very beneficial.

Another successful mentoring partnership is between two Bingham McHale attorneys in Indianapolis, associate Sonia Chen, who joined the Indiana bar in 2001 and joined the firm in 2006, and Kandi Hidde, who has been a lawyer since 1994 and joined the firm in 1999.

Like Barnes, Bingham has a program for mentors to work with new attorneys and to make sure they hit certain milestones every few months, Hidde said.

She and Chen are both in the litigation practice group and while they weren’t officially assigned to each other, they gravitated toward each other because of the cases they work on together and their similar styles of practice, which evolved into a mentor-mentee relationship they continue.

Chen said she appreciated that Hidde always had her door open to her and others in the firm who would have questions.

“Just knowing she’s there if I have a question makes a difference,” Chen said, adding that Hidde has been a helpful resource for professional and business development and with day-to-day questions she has.

Hidde, Chen, and Inskeep said the ISBA mentor program is a great idea because mentor relationships are invaluable.

“The most important thing is that each party be an eager participant,” Inskeep added. “A mentor must be willing and available to share what they have learned, while also being open to learning from the more junior person. And the less experienced lawyer needs to take the initiative to ask questions.

“One of more important things a mentor does is to be a supporting advocate for a mentee,” he added. “Oftentimes when the mentee falls on their face and you have to help pick them up and dust them off, you can then say, ‘Let me tell you a story where I did something twice as dumb, … but I’ve still been able to succeed and I believe you can too.’”•

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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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