April 01, 2012

From the Bench: Mentoring—What is Our Message?

If the legal profession is to take on a different aura, part of that change must be in how lawyers relate to their mentees.

Hon. Joseph A. Greenaway Jr.

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In our profession, when we contemplate the term “mentor,” it conjures up the notion of a one-sided relationship that reflects a sort of seasonal changing of the guard. If it’s summer, it must be time to break out the war stories or last year’s lectures on how to improve your writing, your oratory skills, your persuasiveness, or your [fill in the blank]. There is no urgency, no fresh thinking, no desire to change the message or even to tailor the message.

Establishing a mentor relationship is not essential to our daily existence. This is in large measure because it is not quantifiable. How do we determine the success or relative worth of the endeavor? While that uncertainty is somewhat disconcerting, it speaks to why it is so critical.

Our law schools appreciate the importance of the mentor/mentee relationship. Students are schooled from the very start of their classes as one-Ls to strive for judicial clerkships if they’re so inclined. Clerkships are touted in large measure because the relationship establishes an entry into the profession.

But what happens after the clerkship, and what happens to those uninterested in that path?

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