American Bar Association
General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division


Mentoring Within the Bar

By Maj. James M. Durant III

As a decade-plus member of the ABA, I know my bar work has not only sharpened my leadership and management skills, but more importantly, it has allowed me to participate in rich mentoring opportunities, both as a recipient and as a mentor to others. As part of my ABA work, I have been privileged to meet senior members of the bar who have succeeded in the face of racial and ethnic under-representation, who have generously made themselves available to me, and to others of African descent for contacts as brief as a conversation over cocktails as well as for relationships that span the years.

My first mentor was U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Will Gunn, an Air Force Academy graduate, White House Fellow, and a Harvard Law School graduate. Knowing I can phone him to discuss something as simple as his opinion on a speech that I'm writing is of tremendous help. Another ABA mentor is Lieutenant Colonel Greg Huckabee, who recently nominated me to argue a matter concerning the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The selfless contributions of these people and other mentors are reason enough to renew my commitment to the ABA each year. But even more rewarding has been the feeling of purpose I experience when, instead of receiving the mentoring, I change places and act as a mentor myself. For example, during a high school outreach program presented by the Young Lawyers Division, the scheduled speakers failed to show up. Thinking on my feet in a stressful situation, I persuaded my fellow YLD representatives to improvise a moot court with the students playing key roles. The spur-of the-minute program was such a success that it has been repeated several times at other high schools, and made me realize how my participation in bar work has directly benefited others besides me. I've also helped develop the criteria for choosing recipients of the YLD Minority Scholarship Program, resulting in several minority appointments to the division. Their success translates into success for the ABA. Although at times it seems a struggle, working for diversity works, and it benefits all who are touched by it.

-Maj. James M. Durant III



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