ILNews

ISBA's Mentor Match pairs experienced lawyers with law grads to facilitate transition into practice

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Passing the bar. The term, for most, refers to passing a test, but the word “bar” has a number of legal meanings. Its origin, for example, referred to an actual bar or partition that separated the working and public areas of a courtroom.

For those studying law, passing the bar exam is the only way to jump that bar, the only way to gain admittance to that most sacred of legal territories. Yet many new lawyers find that admittance and belonging are two different things. Armed with law degrees and a license to practice, they really need help with the “how to” part of being a lawyer.

apb-judgetimbaker01-15col.jpg Judge Tim Baker (left) used the Mentor Match curriculum and personal experience while mentoring Katie Boren, an attorney and law clerk for Court of Appeals Judge Ezra Friedlander. (IL Photo/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Informal mentoring has traditionally helped new lawyers transition to life in the legal profession, but more and more legal entities see the overarching benefit of formalized mentoring programs. The Indiana State Bar Association introduced its Mentor Match program for just such a purpose, offering tools and information to segue participants into legal relationship building. Willing to share their own experiences with another, mentors lend a hand so as new attorneys jump the bar, they land on their own two feet.

A movement to mentor

Mentor Match grew from the realization that new lawyers needed further practical experience to transition successfully from law school to the legal community.

Headed by Maryann Williams, director of sections at the ISBA, and Magistrate Caryl Dill, among others, the committee began by researching what other states offered in their mentoring programs.

“We looked at curriculum-based models,” Williams said. “So as you’re going through this curriculum, you’re building a relationship and that person becomes someone you can ask questions of. We didn’t want it just for new lawyers.”

A bonus came when both mentors and mentees who completed the program could qualify for Continuing Legal Education hours or Applied Professionalism Course credit. Indiana was the first state to offer CLE credit for completing a mentoring program; many others now have followed suit.

According to Williams, the curriculum’s purpose is to establish a foundation and framework from which the match pair can build their relationship. Understanding the importance of creating pairs that are not only compatible professionally but also personally can be tricky.

“You can’t match people by computers,” Williams said. “I look at their practice area and the area they practice in. Sometimes I have to do cold calls, where I call up somebody in Angola and say, ‘I don’t know you, but you’re a member. Would you be willing to be a mentor for someone I have up there.’”

Seeing the value in the Mentor Match, organizations have approached ISBA requesting use of the program’s infrastructure that they then adapt to meet their own needs. Examples include the attorney general’s office, Ice Miller and those who choose to have mentoring groups as opposed to one-on-one matches.

To each his own

Mentor Match is nothing if not flexible. As the ISBA committee developed the program, their main goal was to create a springboard from which participants could build a relationship. Participants’ personalities and personal goals ultimately determine what the match becomes.

“We met at an interesting point in our careers,” said Ilisha Dowell, an attorney with the Indiana Department of Child Services. “She [mentor Sonia Leerkamp] had recently left her position where she was the prosecuting attorney for Hamilton County, where I was living. I was in an interesting position because I was looking for my first attorney position, so she was kind of walking out the door when I was trying to walk in the door.”

Leerkamp, now a special prosecutor for Indiana, agreed that the pair was able to gain insight from the other’s experiences. Their relationship became a friendship and the two still keep in touch.

“We got to the point where we would talk about our families and interests outside of law,” Leerkamp said. “One of the things we talked a lot about was that she was working as a paralegal and she had been an attorney for a while, so I really got to see through her eyes the difficulties of young attorneys.”

Concentrating on the curriculum was important to U.S. Southern District of Indiana Magistrate Judge Tim Baker when he agreed to mentor Katie Boren, but the two enjoyed outings to legal functions and meetings and an informative trip to the county jail.

“When you join the bar it’s kind of an overwhelming thing and you don’t know enough to have questions,” Boren, a clerk for Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Ezra Friedlander said. “When you’re in law school you’ve been preparing to enter this community, but when it happened I still felt it was a stretch to call myself a member of the bar.”

lynch Lynch

For Baker and Boren, their mentor relationship established a positive professional connection that helped introduce the new attorney to the Indianapolis legal community. Another benefit was the development of professionalism, ethics and community involvement – qualities important in the practice of law.

“The practice of law is, by its nature, a service profession, and as lawyers our job is to help others – that includes both the paying clients and the non-paying folks,” Baker said. “If you look at public service it’s very common to see the lawyers out there doing that kind of work … it’s just part of the profession.”

Come together

Primary objectives of Mentor Match are developing relationships and sharing information, but bridging generations and creating professional partnerships is often an added bonus.

Reynold Berry, a partner at Rubin & Levin P.C., for example, was matched with a mentee who was older, a circumstance that enriched the experience for both.

“He was new to the profession and I had some experience in the profession,” Berry said. “That said, I had a lot I could learn from him. Regardless of who the mentee is, there’s still a lot you can learn from them.”

While Baker and Leerkamp felt similarly impacted by their mentoring relationships, David Lynch and his mentor, Amy Noe, of Amy Noe Law in Richmond, forged a professional relationship as well.

“The first time I met with her I remember being very frank with her and saying, ‘I don’t know what the heck I’m doing here,’” Lynch recalled.

Her suggestions helped Lynch get on his feet in the years following their completion of Mentor Match. When she called him for lunch early this year, he was blindsided by an offer to become an associate in her firm.

“I had the chance to work with somebody who I could learn from, who has an amazing staff, who has a stellar reputation in the community,” he said. “It was a great choice for me.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

ADVERTISEMENT