I recently read a letter sent by a law school graduate to the "Job Doc" of The Boston Sunday Globe (see Jan. 13, 2002) seeking advice. The writer said he had graduated from an ABA-accredited university law school more than seven months ago and had not been able to obtain a single job offer. He described his participation in clerkships while in law school to gain experience, and his registration with unemployment and temp agencies - all without success in finding employment. Now he was seeking advice about "hanging his own shingle," looking for resources or suggestions on how to finance opening a professional office.
I suspect this is the plight of many young - and not-so-young - lawyers who are just starting in the legal profession. It also might be the plight of more seasoned lawyers who have become victims of law-firm restructuring.
The "Job Doc," Roni F. Noland, gave the writer several suggestions, which included participation in the MBA's mentoring and networking session for new attorneys that was conducted at our recent annual conference. This event was very well attended, and valuable contacts no doubt were made that will serve many new lawyers well in the coming year. Such mentoring opportunities continue throughout the year at the MBA. This is a member service that is proving increasingly worthwhile and necessary.
Mentoring is not just the responsibility of state, county and local bar associations. It is a responsibility that each of us should recognize and provide to our brothers and sisters in the bar. How many lawyers donate their time to food drives, church groups, health causes, youth sports and scouting, town boards, college alumni associations and more? They should consider extending their volunteerism to working with new lawyers as well. The rewards are just as great.
I have been a lawyer since 1977 and practiced in a small firm in the areas of domestic relations and probate law since that time. My partner practices land-use law, and has no desire to practice either domestic relations or probate law. I, in turn, love what I do and have no interest in land-use law. Still, it is often helpful and necessary to "brainstorm" an idea or approach with another lawyer who may offer a different point of view that can help me solve a problem.
Over the years, I have learned to appreciate these "advice givers" and consider them my mentors.
It is easier, however, to "phone a friend" when you have been in practice for a few years and have a Rolodex full of trusted advisors than it is for a new lawyer to reach out to seasoned members of the bar for help. Mentoring opportunities such as those provided by the MBA open the door for experienced lawyers to be role models and incorporate mentoring into their own practices. Conversely, new lawyers offer their mentors innocence, idealism and enthusiasm. These qualities can serve as nourishment to experienced practitioners who may suffer from cynical acceptance of our system.
Mentoring is the obligation of all who love the law. It is a way to give and to receive. You don't have to part of a formal program to join in the process. Start your own, and enjoy the appreciation of sharing your years of experience and advice.