New Year, New Stress, New Mentoring Programs
By Lindsey R. Buchheit
Lindsey R. Buchheit is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and an associate with the Sioux City, Iowa, firm of Corbett, Anderson, Corbett & Vellinga, L.L.P.
Need some assistance in a substantive area of the law? Applying for a legal position and not sure how to write a cover letter? Having trouble juggling your job, family, and friends? Regardless of the issue, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD) Mentorship Team is here to help.
This year the ABA YLD’s member service project is focused on mentoring. The Mentorship Project is an online collection of resources designed for mentors, mentees, and organizations. As part of the project the ABA YLD teamed with StoryCorps ® to share stories on mentorship in the legal profession. StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening. The mentorship stories are archived in the StoryCorps collection in the Library of Congress and also will be available on the Mentorship Project’s website at www.abanet.org/mentoring .
Equally important, the Mentorship Team will seek interviews with mentors who may have less leadership experience but who can address narrow issues such as minority lawyers who can offer guidance to mentees dealing with discriminatory issues in their places of work.
In addition, the Mentorship Team hopes to provide guidance on the many ways that you can make mentoring a part of your bar year. According to ABA YLD Mentorship Coordinator Daniel J. T. McKenna of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the primary goals of the Mentorship Team is to encourage ABA YLD affiliates to implement mentoring programs and showcase those that have been established.
Plan a Mentoring Program
When planning a mentoring program for your affiliate, consider what your individual members are looking to gain from the mentoring relationship. Each person’s needs are different. In McKenna’s words, a mentoring program “is anything a mentee wants it to be.” A law student may seek a mentor to assist in determining the career path he or she will take after law school. A young lawyer might use a mentoring program for guidance in a specific area of the law. A senior lawyer considering changing careers may wish to speak with a mentor who has previously experienced a similar life change.
By allowing mentees to essentially define the parameters of the mentoring relationship, your affiliate bar can welcome an array of mentors. According to McKenna, you should consider persons who hold bar leadership positions, career planners, or specialists in one field or another.
Once you’ve established the array of mentors and mentees who may take advantage of the program, you have to consider the type(s) of mentoring service(s) you will offer. For instance, speed mentoring, which mimics speed dating, allows mentees to move from one mentor to another following a brief conversation and exchange of business cards. For mentees who have determined what kind of mentor he or she desires, mentoring groups are an option. During a mentoring group session, a moderator facilitates discussion about a selected topic.
Affiliate Mentoring Programs
Currently, several affiliates provide mentoring programs. For instance, the Nebraska State Bar Association’s (NSBA) Women and the Law Section recently established a mentoring program designed to “encourage professional mentoring relationships between experienced and less-experienced section members to facilitate the transfer of valuable information and insight into the practice of law.” For more information, visit the Nebraska Women and the Law Section website at www.nebar.com/pdfs/sections/WomenintheLaw/FactSheet.pdf. The Women and the Law mentoring program is intended to provide mentees guidance in areas such as networking, client development, law firm management, substantive law, work-life balance and interpersonal issues, transitions, and professional development.
Similarly, the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) has established the MentorCenter, an Internet-based mentoring program designed to connect experienced ISBA lawyers with member attorneys seeking assistance with substantive law questions or advice on how to balance the personal and professional demands of practice. Visit the Illinois program website at www.illinoisbar.org/mentorcenter . “This individually-initiated contact from mentees to potential mentors might involve a single issue, or it might involve an ongoing, formal, mentoring relationship.” Id.
In conclusion, as you and your members embark on a new year of issues—whether professional or personal—remember it may be the perfect time to consider mentoring. Mentors have been where you want to go!
For more information on the ABA YLD Mentorship Project, visit www.abanet.org/mentoring . To have your mentoring program, resource, or story included, contact Tracy Kaempf, Tracy.Kaempf@americanbar.org, at the ABA YLD.

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