Conferences and Symposia

Managing Mentoring Programs in a Time of Change

Managing Mentoring Programs in a Time of Change*

  • The Current State of Mentoring in the Legal Profession: National Research Data

    Mark Korf, Thomson-Reuters

    Tammy Patterson, NALP Foundation

The results of the survey will be published in Spring 2013.

  •  Assessing the Success of Professional Development Through Mentoring

Professor Neil Hamilton, University of St. Thomas, Minn.

Dr. Verna Monson, Director of Research & Programs, Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions

  •  Using Technology to Facilitate Successful Formal Mentoring Programs: Lori Keating, Attorney Services Counsel, The Supreme Court of Ohio; Judith Rush, Director of Mentor Externship, University of St. Thomas, Minn.

Successful mentoring requires both structure and accountability, and technology helps facilitate both of these elements.  When technology is used in large mentoring programs, it makes it easier to keep a database containing the information for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of lawyers; it frees up time for administration to focus on other aspects of the mentoring program; and it provides an opportunity for reverse mentoring.  When used in law schools, technology provides benefits for both faculty and students: it allows faculty to provide feedback and guidance to their students while it allows students to engage in reflective learning and control their professional and skills development. 

Similarly, many lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring programs in law firms and other similar settings already take advantage of the benefits of integrating technology into their programs.  For instance, they utilize the internet for file application, finding a mentor, submitting the agreement and plan, accessing curriculum, and certifying completion of the program.  These programs also conduct surveys using Zoomerang and Survey Monkey to get instant results from the lawyers to use to improve the program, identify PR volunteers, and develop marketing materials.  Email is also used for mentor newsletters, mentor recruitment, people who miss deadlines, surveys, and reminders.  Programs are also utilizing video to provide continuous access to orientation materials and social media like LinkedIn to provide opportunities for networking. 

In the future, we will probably see mentoring programs using automated email systems, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, text messaging, iPhone apps, and Skype.

  • Ten Things You Should Know When Starting a Mentoring Program: Jodi Nafzger, Director of Experiential Learning and Career Services, Concordia Law School

Law students need to be educated on three levels: knowledge, practice, and professional identity.  A professional identity curriculum includes four layers.  The first layer is a “learner-centered mentoring program where students are paired with lawyers and judges for an introduction to lawyering tasks and responsibilities.”  The second layer is “externship placements in a variety of practice settings to put students into practice in a real life setting.”  The third layer is “live client legal clinics where students take direct responsibility for a client’s case.”  Finally, the fourth layer is “career services, post-graduation mentorship programs, and CLE programming.”  The mentorship program aims to promote professionalism, ethical conduct, and work habits; give students a view of the legal profession through experience; and facilitate discussion of professional responsibilities among students, mentors, and faculty members.  The ten things you should know when starting a law school mentoring program are:

  1. Create the program structureformal, informal, student-directed, part of curriculum, institutionally supported

  2. Recruit reputable lawyersreach out to your network, get recommendations, create a database, interview perspective members, and consult with Bar Counsel

  3. Provide mentorship resourcesmanuals, applications, legal activities, Professional Development Plan, Rules of Professional Conduct, and confidentiality agreement

  4. Hand pair mentors with studentsask students what their goals are for the mentoring program, compare their answers with the mentor applications, introduce the mentors and students using email, and have students send the mentors an introductory letter prior to the first day of classes

  5. Orient mentors and studentsCLE orientation program for lawyers, discuss mentorship responsibilities at student orientation, have a “Meet Your Mentor” question-and-answer session, and discuss relationship management

  6. Create incentives for mentorsCLE credit, food and drinks, events, and awards

  7. Utilize Symplicity – facilitates development of professional networks, mentors can see events and post jobs, and students can view profiles, indicate their interests, and contact mentors

  8. Keep mentors and students engagedcontinuous CLE opportunities, class participation, newsletters, and networking events (i.e. speed networking)

  9. Build a staffing modelestablish a faculty-to-student ratio, provide administrative assistance, incorporate student workers, and anticipate future needs

  10. Celebrate your success – i.e. email from student

  •  Maintaining a Successful Law Firm Mentoring Program: Nan Joesten, Principal, Rapid Evolution LLC; Chris Habel, Member, Frost Brown Todd LLC; Charlotte Wager, Partner, Jenner & Block

 Points from Mentors – You Can’t Have Too Many by Nan E. Joesten, Esq.

 Mentoring is one of the most valuable assets in anyone’s career, but especially in the legal profession.  The goal of mentoring is to enhance professional development through effective personal relationships, and it is critical in professions like the legal profession where the start-up curve is steep and experience and judgment play a critical role in one’s ability to be a great lawyer.  Attorneys who mentor are rewarded with personal satisfaction, increased loyalty from grateful junior colleagues, appreciation from peers, and greater influence within the organization. 

 While mentoring is rewarding, it is also challenging.  First, many lawyers have a difficult time finding time to mentor because they have busy schedules to begin with.  Second, some lawyers just make better mentors than other lawyers.  This problem typically arises in formal mentoring programs where a junior attorney and a senior attorney are assigned to one another.  This practice can also prevent a one-on-one mentoring relationship from developing naturally in the course of work.  One way to deal with the challenges posed by formal mentoring is to create more opportunities for natural mentoring to occur. 

 Another solution is multiple mentoring, which doesn’t offer the benefit of a one-on-one mentoring relationship, but it creates opportunities for multiple relationships to develop while simultaneously teaching.  One style of multiple mentoring is the mentoring circle in which a group of mentees meet with one mentor.  Mentoring circles allow the mentees to build upon their individual experiences and enthusiasm to help each other progress in their legal careers.  A multiple mentoring program should begin with an assessment of the participants’ expectations for the program.  The members should also come together to establish ground rules.  A guarantee of confidentiality is key for the program to be successful because the mentees need to be able to trust one another.  The members should also agree on having regular attendance and participation in group meetings.  Once the group has had a few meetings, intermediate evaluations may be helpful to identify whether their objectives are being met, what has worked best, and how the process can be improved.  Multiple mentoring can bridge the gap for organizations that are short on effective mentors and long on attorneys seeking critical mentoring support, make sure mentees get access to the best mentors an organization has to offer, and model good mentoring skills for other attorneys in the curriculum.

Sheila’s Story:

  •  Keynote Presentation: Mentoring as a Way to Improve Gender Equity in the Legal Profession: Ida Abbott, Ida Abbott Consulting

Women currently comprise a third of lawyers, but the percentage of women holding higher positions in law firms is comparably low to that of their male counterparts, and this gap is growing.  Women represent only 15% of equity partners and earn roughly 87% of what their male coworkers make in terms of compensation.

 Points from Coaching, Mentoring & Sponsorship

             Many people think that “coaching” and “mentoring” are interchangeable terms.  However, coaching is distinct from both mentoring and sponsorship.

             “Coaching deals with performance” because it is “functional and results-oriented.”  “A coach helps you identify and set goals in a particular area . . . and develop a plan to achieve those goals”; then “the coach gives you support while you implement your plan and achieve your desired results” by keeping you “disciplined and focused.”  Lawyers who receive coaching are usually (1) new or existing leaders who want to optimize their leadership effectiveness; (2) high potential lawyers who want to achieve their highest level of performance; and (3) under-performing lawyers who must improve their performance or change certain behaviors in order to stay in the firm and on track.  Firms hire coaches to help with business development, leadership development, leadership optimization, communication and presentation skills, writing, time and work management, and team management; firms hire coaches both full-time and on an as-needed basis.  Coaches “help lawyers recognize barriers to top performance and develop strategies for overcoming” these barriers.  They also identify counterproductive behaviors and develop techniques to help the lawyer change those behaviors.

             Compared to coaching, mentoring is “broader in scope and purpose” because it deals with mentees’ overall professional development and advancement rather than just performance goals.  Mentoring is “relational and career-oriented.”  Quality of the mentoring relationship is determined by “trust, mutual respect, and mutual learning.”  Coaching, confidence building, role modeling, counseling, and advocacy are all mentoring activities.  Mentors within law firms are usually lawyers with more career experience and expertise than their mentees.  Many firms conduct formal mentoring programs; lawyers also engage in informal mentoring.  Mentors are not paid as they are expected to mentor as part of their responsibility to the firm and the other lawyers.  The problem is that many lawyers do not make mentoring a priority because of their busy schedules.  In response to this issue, many firms hire coaches to help: in this situation, coaching can be more effective than inadequate mentoring.  Mentoring aids career advancement because it involves “knowledge transfer and skill development.”  Mentors are also valuable because since they are lawyers in the same firm with their mentees, they are familiar with the “firm’s decision-making processes and political dynamics.”  They can pass along inside information regarding firm management and politics to their mentees that allows them “to develop and execute smart career advancement strategies.”  They can also advise their mentees about client relationships and introduce them to business contacts.  Because mentors are part of the firm, they can also “transmit firm values, culture, and professionalism” to their mentees. 

           Sponsors are advocates who use their power and influence to “produce positive career results” for the junior attorneys by publicly endorsing their qualifications, taking risks on their behalf, arguing that they should move up to a higher compensation tier, or urging their partners that they are ready for leadership positions.  Sponsorship is considered to be “mentoring at the highest level.”  In 2010, it was reported that men experienced greater career benefits from mentoring than their female counterparts did.  Further research showed that women receive fewer promotions than men because mentors sponsor men for those positions more than they sponsor women.  Law firms are reacting to this effect by implementing initiatives to increase sponsorship for both women and diverse lawyers.

 Points from The Allure and Challenges of Sponsorship Programs for Women

            Sponsors are important for facilitating career advancement, but statistics show that “women receive less sponsorship than men do.”  Some firms are creating sponsorship programs geared toward women to offset this disparity. 

            Sponsorship is a higher form of mentoring: it requires more active involvement than ordinary mentoring, such as investing in a lawyer’s success by praising her to partners and clients.  Sponsors risk their “own practice and credibility” to help a lawyer succeed; consequently, partners only want to sponsor associates who are top performers with a promising future.  Sponsors can also make good things happen for the lawyer whereas a mentor only needs to have more knowledge and experience than the mentee.  In order to make a difference in a lawyer’s career, the sponsor must have enough influence within the firm to get the lawyer positive career moves such as promotions and higher compensation.

          Sponsorship programs differ from mentoring programs in law firms.  They are geared toward a limited number of female and minority lawyers who are top performers, emphasizing activities pertaining to career advancement as opposed to the educational, supportive, or advisory activities commonly found in mentoring programs.  Despite their benefits, “sponsorship programs in law firms are difficult to sustain.”  A law firm considering implementing a sponsorship program should (1) have a well-defined purpose and program objectives; (2) focus on power and purpose rather than gender; (3) have men take the lead since they comprise the majority of partners; (4) build on pre-existing relationships; (5) help sponsors face and fight unconscious bias; (6) make it a voluntary program; (7) focus on action; and (8) provide ongoing oversight.  An alternative approach to a formal sponsorship program is to integrate sponsorship into leadership, diversity, or women’s initiatives to help women find their own sponsors.  Regardless of what kind of sponsorship program a firm decides to implement, the key to success is that lawyers must embrace the initiatives in both words and action.

  •  Keeping Your Program Strong Through Leadership Transition: Doug Ashworth, Associate Director of ICLE, State Bar of Georgia; Tangela King, Director, Transition into Law Practice, State Bar of Georgia; John Baldwin, Executive Director, Utah State Bar

 Doug Ashworth: Remarks to National Conference on Mentoring in Legal Profession

  1. How do you recruit mentors?

 There are external and internal factors that come into play when recruiting mentors.  There are four external factors that came into play with Georgia: (1) “Georgia is a mandatory bar and has mandatory CLE,” and mentoring is the mandatory CLE event for the new lawyers; (2) Georgia’s “judges and lawyers are on the same page”; (3) “All of [Georgia’s] law schools are on the same page”; and (4) the “Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism helped set the stage for an innovative program like mentoring.”  The six internal factors that came into play with the Georgia program were: (1) a broad-based support system; (2) publicity; (3) “flexibility in mentoring plans”; (4) “design for self-recruitment of most mentors” (i.e. inside mentoring); (5) “design to avoid burnout”; and (6) “lessons from [the] Pilot Project” (i.e. mentors believe that mentoring works; mandatory mentoring programs are good if they are done right; and over-regulation is not a good tool for mentoring programs).    

  1. How do you train mentors?

 Going back to the lessons they learned from Georgia’s Pilot Project, the key is to avoid over-regulation of the mentoring program – you have to trust the developers of the program.  This particular program offers training in the form of CLE hours, but it does not require it.  Although the CLE is not required, there is a good turnout of mentors each year. 

  1. What works and what doesn’t work?

 It depends on the type of mentoring program.  The group mentoring program arose from a situation where there were “dozens of newly admitted lawyers who were not employed, not desirous of flying solo, refusing to go Inactive” and without mentors.  These mentor-lacking lawyers participated in group sessions rather than a one-on-one mentoring relationship.  A major benefit of the group mentoring program “is that it forces a newly admitted lawyer to ‘have a plan.’”  The other two types of programs are inside and outside mentoring programs.  With inside mentoring, the program committee has no control over what kind of mentor the new lawyer will get.  Many law firms assign a one-on-one mentor to the new lawyer, and the two begin fostering this relationship from day one.  On the other hand, outside mentoring also works well.  The only noted downfall of outside mentoring is a “lack of mentor volunteers in certain practice areas.”  Nonetheless, it’s a great program for a new lawyer, the profession, and the public alike.  Georgia’s mandatory mentoring program for new lawyers works well and is effective overall, but it is not perfect. 

 Keeping your Program Strong through Leadership Transition

 My comments are based on having dealt with decision makers in state government, law firms, private and non-profit boards, in academia, and including involvement with particularly problematic volunteers, and I’ve been on the other side as a decision maker while serving as the president of several governing boards and as a members of several other governing boards.

 A. There are many issues involved in dealing with governing boards and decision makers:

 1. Decision makers’ feelings about programs and priorities are continuously subject to changes and varying interests, attention spans, environments, internal politics, egos, personalities, whims, caprices, altering priorities and available resources.

 2. Things change.

 3. One size does not fit all.  Not everyone loves everything or everyone. Commitment to programs and the perceived value of programs varies among the leaders.

 4. They have the power. You have the information and proximity to program to put it in a proper light.

 5.  There is no substitute for a good program which has important goals and is             effective in accomplishing those goals and efficient in expending resources.

 B.  Recommendations in preparing to successfully dealing with leadership transition and continuing to be relevant amidst changing priorities and perceptions:

1. Communicate regularity without seeming to be self-serving.  They need to trust you.

2.  You need people skills.

3. You need to know their personalities.

4. Remember that they are not always interested in hearing about what you’re doing until there is a problem or a critical need.  You need them to be familiar with and favorable to what you’re doing so that when things do go wrong or the tides turn or you need more help they have confidence in you and your problem-solving skills and plans.

5. Be honest and complete about successes and failures

6. The program needs to be as institutionalize program as best as possible without over burdening resources so that it appears to be core to the mission of the organization           and a regular, usual, customary and accepted component

7. Remain visible without seeming obvious to supervisors, decision makers, and volunteers so you also seem to be core to accomplishing the mission of the organization and a regular, usual, customary and accepted component yourself.

8. Anticipate future issues now and plan their resolution, taking into account things     like potential tugs on resources; problems if mentor numbers lag and what mentees may complain about.

9.Manage bad news on your own terms.

10. Find a champion in every group.

11. Find positive anecdotes to support the success of the program.

12. Be prepared to go to bat for what needs to be done.

13. Remain flexible.

14. Remain calm.

 Managing Mentoring Programs in a Time of Change

 Both expected and unexpected changes in the leadership of a mentoring program cause unanticipated difficulties.  However, “mentoring programs are dynamic,” and the “triple A’s” of leadership—archive, automate, and advise—will help you to successfully maneuver your mentoring program through such a transition.  In terms of the first A, archive, detailed records provide information to bar associations in other states looking to establish mentoring programs.  Such records include copies of “the program’s annual budget and expenses; presentations given by the program director; videos and written materials from CLE and/or mentoring events sponsored by the program; and reports prepared by the program director for other organizations.”  In addition to these items, you will also want to have an outline of the program’s history, an activity timeline, and the program’s operating procedures.  It is even more helpful “to work with the former Director during the leadership transition” if you have the opportunity to. 

 The second A, automate, requires the use of a software system or database to “[handle] the management and organization of beginning lawyer and mentor information” and to produce reports about enrollment and productivity.  The use of a website might also be beneficial to your mentoring program.  One of the major benefits of having these types of automated features in your mentoring program is that they continue in the absence of a program director. 

 The third A, advise, provides that the program have a “clear communication plan” to be used during the transition when the position of the director is vacant.  The key is to be able to keep the participants informed without worrying them that they will be unable to complete the program on time.   

* The National Legal Mentoring Conference on Managing Mentoring Programs in a Time of Change was held in October 2012, at St. Thomas University School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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