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Judge Lynne Battaglia Shares Her Wisdom about Mentorship and Being Vulnerable

Alicia Leigh Shelton


  • Judge Lynne A. Battaglia emphasizes that trust is foundational in mentoring relationships, established through reliability and time investment.
  • Vulnerability fosters growth and deeper connections, especially in relationships among women facing shared professional and personal challenges.
  • All mentoring relationships should be two-way learning experiences.
  • Overcoming shared challenges strengthens mentoring bonds, and one of the gifts of a mentor-mentee relationship is that it shifts with your needs in all aspects of life.
Judge Lynne Battaglia Shares Her Wisdom about Mentorship and Being Vulnerable
Lighthouse Films via Getty Images

If you want support, you have to be open to the world around you and seek it out.
—Hon. Lynne A. Battaglia

While in law school, I had the opportunity to clerk for the Honorable Lynne A. Battaglia, associate judge on the Maryland Court of Appeals. I met Judge Battaglia in the winter of my second year in law school. I was an intern for the Women’s Bar Foundation and had been hired to assist Judge Battaglia and her law clerks with a project on the history of women lawyers in Maryland. I knew little about law, and much less about the history of women lawyers, but I was excited to spend winter break from school in a judge’s chambers.

As a law student, the idea of “chambers” sounded almost mythic, and Judge Battaglia’s chambers did not disappoint. The law clerks’ desks were always covered with piles of drafts marked up with red ink, volumes of the Maryland Reporter, and stacks of books from the law library. Judge Battaglia would call her clerks into her office for meetings where they would sit for hours, talking through the ins and outs of the opinions they had been assigned. That spring, Judge Battaglia allowed me to stay on as a judicial intern. At the end of the judicial internship, she offered me the opportunity to clerk for her while I was finishing up my last year of law school. That year was one of the most challenging and rewarding that I have experienced. 

It has been almost six years since my clerkship ended, and Judge Battaglia has continued as my mentor for both my professional and personal development. I am but one of many who are fortunate to call her a mentor, and many more have benefited from her guidance over the years. Judge Battaglia taught courses at both Maryland law schools, chaired the Maryland Professionalism Center for new admittees to the Maryland Bar, and created a mentoring program that paired new attorneys with experienced practitioners throughout the state.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Judge Battaglia about her own mentors and how those relationships have shaped her development.

Trust Is the Foundation of a Strong Relationship

Judge Battaglia credits trust as the foundation for her mentoring relationships with coworkers, bosses, and colleagues throughout her legal career. She says that trust is built by both keeping your word on even simple things and investing time in the other person. This is how Judge Battaglia’s law school professor and mentor, Alice Brumbaugh, became her lifelong friend.

Professor Brumbaugh taught Judge Battaglia in several of her law school courses, including estates and trust. What some students may have interpreted as difficult or demanding, Judge Battaglia saw as “rigorous.” She says that she knew that Professor Brumbaugh was cognizant of her students’ development needs and acted in their best interest. Judge Battaglia felt comfortable going to Professor Brumbaugh for advice when deciding on how to proceed in her post-law-school career path because she could trust that Professor Brumbaugh would have her best interests in mind. After law school, Judge Battaglia invited Professor Brumbaugh to dinner to thank her for her advice, and what resulted was a decades-long friendship that continues today.

Vulnerability Creates Opportunity for Growth

Out of trust, the ability to be vulnerable develops. Judge Battaglia says that this has been particularly relevant in her relationships with other women throughout her career, such as Judge Gale E. Rasin, Baltimore City Circuit Court, who served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office with Judge Battaglia in the late 1970s; and Emily Rody, who served with Judge Battaglia on the board of the Women’s Law Center. Judge Battaglia considered both women to be both peers and mentors; the women mentored each other through shared challenges, and by speaking openly on sensitive issues from professional ethics to balancing the demands of career and motherhood, they supported and guided each other. Judge Battaglia explains that these relationships develop when you are willing to say, “I need your help.”

Mentoring Is a Two-Way Learning Experience

Mentees are not the only ones who can and should ask for help. Judge Battaglia says that all of her mentoring relationships are two-way learning experiences. As an example, Judge Battaglia points to her friendship with Judge Andrea M. Leahy, Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Although they got to know each other while Judge Battaglia offered professional development guidance to Judge Leahy in her early legal career, they now frequently look to each other for mutual advice. Judge Battaglia credits this in part to her willingness to always openly say, “I don’t know the answer to that.” She says that her mentoring relationship with Judge Leahy is one that benefits them both and has grown stronger over the years out of mutual need and shared commitment.

Relationships Are Shaped by Shared Challenges

In reflecting on some of her relationships with former law clerks that have endured throughout the years, Judge Battaglia notes that many of the relationships grew out of challenges that they faced together. One such challenge was crafting the book Finding Justice: A History of Women Lawyers in Maryland since 1642. The idea for the book was born out of Judge Battaglia’s realization, after watching a presentation by Professor Larry Gibson on the history of African American lawyers in Maryland, that she did not know the history of women lawyers in Maryland. She then reached out to Judge Leahy, who shared her interest in the subject, and they began a years-long journey to chronicle the evolution of women lawyers in the state. From inception to publication, the path to Finding Justice spanned several clerkship years in Judge Battaglia’s chambers and brought together women in the legal profession throughout Maryland. Judges, professors, attorneys, and students all came together under Judge Battaglia’s leadership to recount the importance of Maryland’s women lawyers and the obstacles that they overcame, and to preserve oral histories of the women themselves. Judge Battaglia says that when she first went to Judge Leahy with the idea for Finding Justice, she could not have imagined the scope of the project or the challenges that would ensue. In a similar vein, she notes that one of the gifts of a mentor-mentee relationship is that it never stays static; rather, it shifts with your needs in all aspects of life.