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Mentoring: The Gift That Pays Big Dividends for the Giver
As difficult as it is for me to believe, I will soon celebrate my 20th anniversary as a lawyer. As I look back over my legal career, I realize how blessed I have been to have a number of wonderful mentors who taught me many of the finer points about the practice of law. From these mentors, I have learned things such as the importance of civility in the profession, the need to network with my colleagues across the state and the country, and the need to give back to my community and the profession.
In my view, today’s new lawyers find themselves facing a far more challenging climate in which to practice law than what faced me when I graduated. There are scores of new lawyers in Tennessee who are being forced to hang out their own shingle or pair up with a fellow new lawyer because they cannot find a job. There can be no doubt that these new lawyers need the same guidance that I received in the practical aspects of the practice of law. After all, even our very best law schools cannot fully prepare a new lawyer for all of the unique challenges that they will face as a new practitioner.
While I am sure that many of you were as blessed as I was with great mentors and feel obligated to pay it forward by mentoring new members of our profession, even those of us with the most altruistic motives don’t mind receiving a benefit in return when we donate our time to helping these young attorneys. Enter the concept of mutual mentoring. Despite my many years of law practice, I do not find that I have lost the need for a mentor, but rather the type of mentoring that I need has changed. I am about to really date myself here, but when I graduated from law school online legal research was just being introduced; I prepared my research papers on one of five computers in the “computer lab” at the UT College of Law; and I did not have an e-mail address. While I have come a long way with regard to technology since those days, I realize that the new associate whom our firm has hired can still run circles around me on that front.
So let me provide you with two great reasons to mentor, regardless of whether you otherwise would feel any obligation to do so. The first is what you can receive in return. Let’s face it, we knew more about the state of the law and trends in the profession on the day that we took the bar exam, than we will ever know again in our professional lives. Most new law grads are also very knowledgeable about the latest in legal technology. So, while you mentor a new lawyer on the finer points of the practice of law, allow them to assist you in returning to the “cutting edge” of the practice.
A second great reason to mentor is that you can receive CLE credit for it through the new mentoring program being rolled out by the Tennessee Bar Association in February. As you may recall, during the preceding bar year the TBA undertook a study of whether more mentoring was needed by young lawyers in Tennessee. The study showed that the answer was unquestionably yes. Your association is now hard at work implementing a program that will meet those needs. This program is not designed to compete with the excellent mentoring programs that are presently available, but rather it will fill the gap where programs do not exist or where the need exceeds the ability of a particular program to meet it. In order to launch this program in February, we need our members to let us know now that they will serve as mentors in the program. For more information go to www.tba.org/committee/mentoring-committee
Please take the time to impart your years of wisdom to a new lawyer. The public and the profession will benefit from it, to be sure, but so will you. Remember, Together We Make a Difference!
TBA President CINDY WYRICK practices law with Ogle, Gass & Richardson PC in Sevierville, and she focuses her practice primarily on the areas of personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, business disputes, domestic relations and general civil litigation.