Pay it forward

Issue July 2011 By Denise Squillante

As we see more of a "graying" of our profession, more seasoned attorneys will soon be turning over the reins of the profession to younger, up-and-coming lawyers.

To prepare for this shift, the more seasoned attorneys have the responsibility to nurture and show our less seasoned colleagues the way.

I am confident that as you read this message, you will remember those persons who assisted you as you began your career and how important their mentorship was to your professional journey. We need to honor the legacy of those who have helped us in the past while carrying on that tradition in the future.

As I have spoken throughout the state this year, I have encouraged colleagues to "reach behind and pull up one new lawyer in front of us."

To help, the Massachusetts Bar Association has wonderful mentoring programs, networking opportunities and events planned by the various sections, the Young Lawyers Division, the Lawyers in Transition Committee and our educational department. Programs such as "Basics" and "How to Start and Run" are among our most popular offerings as they provide much-needed lifelines for young or newly admitted attorneys.

All of these beneficial opportunities are important, particularly in the difficult economic climate where the unemployment of new lawyers is causing many to tap their entrepreneurial spirit and open their own office. More seasoned practitioners can play a part to help such attorneys in their respective communities by connecting them with the various programs and events hosted by the MBA.

To those lawyers who are considering opening up their own office, I send you the message that you can do it. It may not be easy at first, but I am certain that you will find your way. In each of your communities, there are groups that you can connect with to become more visible - join a community board, serve as a lawyer for a day in the Probate Court or take a pro bono case to assist legal services in your area.

If you embark on your own practice, treat each and every one of your new cases with much care, as much of your continued business growth will stem from referrals from past clients. And, do whatever you can to protect your reputation no matter what career path you charter.

I advise new lawyers in the commonwealth to not be afraid to ask a question of a more senior lawyer. Many of my colleagues have remarked that they are not approached by those new faces in courtroom corridors. They typically do not know the new lawyers' names or where they practice. So, I recommend that those established practitioners do their part to connect with those new faces and serve as a resource.

This disconnect is unfamiliar to me as my more senior counterparts went out of their way to help with my transition into the profession when I began my career. I encourage senior and junior lawyers alike to re-energize that connection in the legal profession.

Senior lawyers throughout the state can reach out to those new to the bar, share a lunch or bring them to an MBA continuing education program. Or, sponsor a new lawyer with an MBA membership - the cost is minimal and the rewards on both sides are great.

Please join me in continuing to help the next generation of legal professions establish themselves and positively impact the future of our profession.