Conferences and Symposia

Best Practices in Building Sustainable Mentoring Programs

Best Practices in Building Sustainable Mentoring Programs April 2010 | Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Center on Professionalism, Columbia, South Carolina Keynote Address: Stephen N. Zack, Esquire, President-Elect of the American Bar Association The Benefits of Mentoring to the Profession – Firms, Law Schools, and Bars: Melvin F. Wright, Executive Director, North Carolina Commission of Professionalism and Chair, ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism; David E. Dukes, Managing Partner, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Building Sustainable Programs – Keys to Institutionalizing Mentoring Programs: Ida Abbott, Esquire, Ida Abbott Consulting Mentoring is a developmental process based on a personal relationship used to help someone develop as a professional and achieve professional goals. Critical issues faced in building a mentoring program include mutuality, confidentiality, and chemistry. The program must also be voluntary with regard to trust. Mentors look for competence, commitment, honesty, follow-through, and return on investment in a mentee. Mentoring programs serve two functions: career and psychosocial. The career function focuses on skills, performance, judgment, and advancement, while the psychosocial function focuses on self-esteem, professional identity, work satisfaction, and sense of belonging. When building a mentoring program, there are some important questions to consider. Do mentors really matter? How do most mentoring relationships start? How many mentors should a lawyer have? Who should those mentors be? Why a mentoring program? How does it relate to other professional development systems? Will the organization’s culture support it, and how is informal mentoring rewarded? How will you get buy-in? The mentoring program needs to have an articulated and measurable purpose with specific and clear objectives and alignment with strategic business goals. The program should also have limited and realistic expectations; guidelines; a matching process; support; training for both mentors and mentees; curriculum that covers process, trust- and relationship-building, communication, and demographic differences; culture; incentives; rewards; and accountability. There are some limitations and challenges to be faced in starting a mentoring program. It can be difficult to maintain momentum. There is little to no control over what advice mentors will give, and there is no uniformity with regard to mentors’ advice, which makes it difficult to implement accountability. State bar association mentoring programs focus on professionalism, ethical conduct, skills and community. The strengths of these programs include a clear purpose, well-defined program structure, specific guidelines, abundant resources, and both technological and administrative support. The challenges faced by these programs include matching the size of the new lawyer pool, maintaining consistency, meeting the high expectations that have been set, defining the role of law firm and employer mentoring programs, and existing in the midst of a changing profession because mentoring programs alone are not sufficient to train and prepare new lawyers for entry into the legal profession. From Evaluating Mentoring Programs Mentoring programs must be regularly evaluated to see if they are achieving their intended objectives. First, review the program’s intended goals, then measure “progress, achievements, and effectiveness against those” goals. Programs should be evaluated at the mid-point to measure the process and at completion to measure the results. Evaluation of the program is necessary in deciding whether to continue the program or change it. The following questions should be asked during the evaluation: Is the program’s purpose clearly understood? Did participants receive adequate training to carry out their responsibilities? Did the matching process make effective matches? Did the firm provide adequate resources? Were the benefits of the program worth the costs? The evaluation should also focus on factors that indicate whether the program was successful at achieving its goals. Such factors include the degree of participation, “creation and achievement of mentees’ development plans, ability of mentors to address mentees’ identified needs, increased productivity and work quality of mentees, and improved communication between mentors and mentees in the firm.” Methods of collecting data include “interviews, focus groups, and surveys of participants and observers.” They are used “to establish a baseline, record interim progress, and assess final results.” Mentoring relationships are measured by “the quality of personal affiliation and the degree of development.” High levels of affiliation mean that the mentor and the mentee relate to each other well on a personal level, allowing them to learn from each other and for the mentee to experience career development. Mentees’ progress can be assessed via social integration, cognitive development, professional performance, and identity development. From State Bar Mentoring Programs on the Rise One concern of those in the legal profession is that new lawyers are not prepared enough to practice law immediately upon entry into practice because they lack “real-world experience or knowledge of the practical, business and managerial aspects of law practice and client relations.” Bar associations can promote mentoring to make sure new lawyers receive guidance from experienced lawyers. There have been many bar-organized efforts as well as national conferences on mentoring, such as those sponsored by the University of South Carolina Center on Professionalism, and the interest in state bar-directed mentoring is expected to grow. Some states have mandatory mentoring programs and others have voluntary mentoring programs. Mandatory programs allow participation in law firm mentoring programs as long as they meet the bar standards and requirements. The goal is that lawyers receiving this guidance during their initial entry into legal practice will “develop understanding, skills, judgment and good habits that will last throughout their careers.” What We Can Learn from Law Firm Mentoring Programs – What Works, What Doesn’t: Heather Mallard, Esquire, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice; Christopher P. Gramling, Esquire, Shook Hardy & Bacon; Janet Hamilton, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough From Advancement and Promotion: SHB’s Mentoring Task Force: A Critical Component to Attorney Success A mentor is “a friend, advisor, guide, and tutor” who can significantly impact someone’s life. Mentoring relationships come in many different varieties, but they are a crucial component of the legal profession. “The abilities to relate to others, to listen well, to mediate differences, and to advocate for others serve the successful mentor as much as they serve the successful lawyer.” Successful mentors take a personal interest in their mentees’ personal and professional “growth and success.” Mentors can provide their mentees with “professional development and opportunities, constructive feedback, and the exchange of . . . personal and institutional knowledge and experience,” which promotes “job satisfaction, loyalty, and an accelerated development of critical skills.” Mentors also help “develop leaders, improve retention, shorten learning curves, and promote a healthy” work-life balance within their firm – not only do mentoring programs benefit individual attorneys, but they also benefit the firm as a whole. SHB fosters informal and formal mentoring through its Mentoring Task Force, or MTF. In SHB’s formal mentoring program, the MTF pairs new associates with “senior attorneys as mentors for” two years in Phase I. In Phase II, formal mentoring is continued through the associate’s seventh year with the firm. The mentors and mentees provide feedback to the MTF throughout the course of the mentoring relationship, and the program involves voluntary participation. SHB’s uses a team-oriented approach to its informal mentoring program in which the “MTF sponsors . . . programs throughout the year related to informal mentoring,” including panels and discussion groups. Mentoring is “one of the most rewarding and valuable [experiences] in any attorney’s career.” Getting the Basics Right – Best Practices in Recruiting, Selecting, and Training Mentors: Douglas G. Ashworth, Esquire; The Honorable Douglas Lang; Rodney G. Snow, Esquire; The Honorable Eugene Verin From Jefferson County New Lawyer Mentoring Program The Jefferson County New Lawyer Mentoring Program developed through a series of events beginning with an April 2008 mentoring conference followed by concept development; a series of meetings between older black lawyers, bar leaders, judicial leaders, specialty bar leaders, bar commissioners, and judges; implementation through letters to prospective mentees, and formation of a board of directors, worksheet development committee, and website committee; mentee orientation; meeting with prospective mentors; and mentor training and mentee orientation in September. The mission statement of the program is as follows: The goal of the project is to implement a 2 year (2008-2010) pilot lawyer mentoring program in Jefferson County, Alabama, that will assist new lawyer participants transition from law school to professional law practice by emphasizing proper ethical and professional conduct. Part One of the program involves mentor training and mentor orientation. Qualifications to be a mentor include being an Alabama attorney in good standing, being admitted to practice for a minimum of 5 years, having a reputation among judges and other lawyers for competence and ethical and professional conduct, and not having been sanctioned, suspended, or disbarred within that 5 year period. The mentor training portion consisted of 3 hours of training with a plan overview by the director, a presentation on the state bar program and group mentoring, and a one-on-one mentoring tips session. The mentee orientation lasted 1 hour and included a plan overview by the director. Part Two of the program consisted of the mentoring relationship. The mentoring agreement set the parameters of the relationship and included the following provisions: guiding/teaching relationship; no legal services or advice is rendered or given by mentor; no confidential relationship is formed between mentor and mentee; mentor assumes no responsibility for mentee’s clients or legal matters; no co-counseling or referrals during program; and waiver. In addition to the mentoring agreement, The Mentoring plan includes core concepts, lawyering skills, activities and experiences which should be used as learning activities for the new/participating lawyer and Mentor as topics for discussion between them. The activities and experiences are an introduction to the topics which lawyers need to be familiar for the successful and professional practice of law. Categories of the mentoring plan include the legal community, ethics, law office management, client communication, and client advocacy and negotiation. The mentors met with their mentees 6 times between September and May and completed a Certificate of Satisfactory Completion of the program in May. It was suggested that the mentor and mentee meet in 1 hour sessions at a time convenient for both of them; schedule the rest of the meetings at the first meeting; be honest about their time commitments; compensate for generational and experience gaps; remember that friendship is not the goal, but mentoring is; use the worksheets as aids; and remember that veering off topic is okay. Part Three consisted of courthouse sessions at 6 different courthouses with 6 different judges. The sessions took place at the criminal district court, the criminal circuit court, the family court, the domestic relations court, the civil district court, and the civil circuit court. A Primer on Assessing and Evaluating Mentoring Programs Using Social Sciences Methodology: Dr. Verna Monson, St. Thomas School of Law The nature of socially constructed knowledge includes assessment, evaluation, defining a purpose, and beginning with the end in mind. Informal mentoring programs in an organizational climate can be based on traditional mentoring with a mentor and a mentee; on two-way mentoring with benefits to both the mentor and the mentee; on lateral mentoring between associates; on social networking; and on an organizational culture. Social science methods are not just about the numbers: they include a variety of research paradigms, assumptions, and philosophies, and some common methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, observations, outcome measures, and firm culture. The majority of evaluation specialists agree that no one method is the best and that having more evaluation tools is better than just having one. In evaluating a mentoring program, the following questions should be considered: Which mentor-mentee pairs or groups worked, how, and in what ways? Which pairs or groups did not work, and why? Why do some mentoring relationships work and others do not? What are the results to the organization? Evaluating mentoring programs also involves evaluating a lot of other factors such as individual mentor and mentee differences, multiple mentors, two-way mentoring relationships, mentoring as a culture, mentoring as the sum of a complex process that is not observable, limitations of self-reported data, societal issues like economic downturns or lay-offs, and sensitive topics like gender or race. Isolating factors related to effective mentoring is difficult, and measuring and accounting for all factors is even harder. Where do you start? Assessment can be used as a tool for design and professional development. A needs assessment includes looking at what mentors and mentees see as important through surveys, focus groups, and interviews; organizational issues through determination of where associates need support in areas like client satisfaction and retention, professionalism, ethical issues, teamwork, and law specialties; and participants’ expectations. A formative assessment engages mentors and mentees around a firm strategic priority, providing a formal training and assessment or self-assessments or checklists as tools. Some examples of this type of assessment include competency-based performance assessments after a case or project; soliciting constructive feedback from mentees on their expectations, perceptions of the firm and partners, and what is important to various groups of people; improving client retention through training and self-assessments; giving constructive feedback with regards to professionalism and ethical sensitivity; and enhancing professionalism through dialog and self-assessment of the mentor’s and mentee’s ethical professional identity. Although assessments can be useful tools, it’s important to recognize the limits of any one assessment. Any one assessment only gives a snapshot of an individual’s attitudes, knowledge or capacity, and results can be misleading. The key takeaway is that you need to link needs assessment to program design and integrate assessment and mentoring. When evaluating your mentoring program, look for ways to improve the validity and meaningfulness of your conclusions. Assessment data can be used as part of an evaluation of a mentoring program if you can make a meaningful comparison between at least two groups. Quantitative methods of assessment are useful for comparing differences between offices and correlating those differences with the level of mentor involvement; such methods include survey data, quantifiable outputs, observational data, and nominal, ordinal, and scale level variables. Qualitative methods are helpful in describing program perception, usefulness, and influence, and they include focus groups, interviews, court transcripts and deposition, and portfolio and case file content analysis. Hybrid methods including both qualitative and quantitative assessment techniques are useful and increase validity. However, correlation is not causation. When measuring mentoring assessment programs, pay attention to the validity of the coding process: reliability means consistency, and content validity means the codes adequately cover concepts in the data. Choose assessment tools that are valid. Tools are valid if they’ve been judged as valid or claimed as reliable by vendors, if they’re ethical codes and standards of assessment, and if they meet legal and psychological criteria for validity. Use needs assessment to inform program design, integrate assessment and evaluation with your strategic goals, and focus on having an outcome-based assessment and evaluation. Optimize validity and meaningfulness of your mentoring program by understanding the limitations association with any one methodology, guarding against threats to validity, and improving validity and meaningfulness of evaluation by using a variety of methods. Special Challenges in Working with the Millennial Generation – What You Should Know About Today’s New Lawyer: Professor Susan Daicoff, Florida Coastal School of Law There are seven (7) groups of proposed generations: the lost generation, greatest generation, silent generation, baby boomers, generation x, millennial generation (aka generation y), and generation z. The millennials are those born anywhere from the mid 1970s to the early 2000s. Members of this generation celebrate and enjoy diversity, are optimistic and realistic, are self-inventive and individualistic, rewrite the rules, demand a work-life balance, see institutions as irrelevant, assume the use of internet and communication technologies, are nurtured, possess a sense of entitlement, are collaborative, and view their family members as friends. College students from this generation use technology at higher rates than people from other generations, spending an average of 3.5 hours per day online. During class time, many students from the millennial generation are checking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Email, or using online learning tools. These college students are frequently in touch with their parents, speaking to them an average of 1.5 times per day concerning a wide variety of discussion topics. Members of the millennial generation have a sense of entitlement. They’re used to the “no one loses” mentality where everyone gets an “A” for participation. Their expectations from the workplace are too great, and they want their jobs and school to adapt to their lives rather than the other way around – they’re not ashamed if they’re unprepared for class. They seek feedback, responsibility, and involvement in decision making – they demand more structure and certainty in assignments and schedules. They also work better in groups as opposed to one-on-one interaction. This sense of entitlement has resulted in a generation-and-understanding gap between older employees and supervisors in the workplace and younger, Millennial employees. Despite the gap between Millennials and people from earlier generations, the former do have some great assets to offer. They work well collaborating in groups and teams; they are peer oriented with their use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter; they excel in public presentation and real-life exercises; they can easily use multimedia like PowerPoint in public presentation; they are innovative, sidestepping traditional methods and uses of technology to achieve their goals; they demand a balance of work, life, and leisure; they celebrate cultural diversity; and they possess heroic and civic-minded qualities. Despite these assets, the state of the legal profession has seemingly declined during the Millennials’ lifetimes. It’s plagued by de-professionalism and incivility, low public opinion of lawyers and the legal system, and lawyer distress and dissatisfaction. Surveys have revealed that depression among lawyers has increased in addition to alcoholism, psychological distress, and dissatisfaction with their jobs. The lawyer personality consists of two layers: a drive to achieve and an interpersonal relating style. Lawyers have a need for achievement; are social extroverts; are competitive, masculine, argumentative, aggressive, and dominant; have a low interest in people, emotional concerns, and interpersonal matters, preferring thinking and conventional rights-based morality; focus on economic bottom-line of settlement options; and have elevated levels of psychological problems and substance abuse. Law students don’t start out with these characteristics: a shift often occurs during law school that causes the lawyer to develop these characteristics and attributes. In implementing a mentoring program for lawyers, there are a number of things to keep in mind. Have a structured and supportive work environment that foster interactive relationships with immediate and direct feedback, and be prepared for demands and high expectations. Promote collaborative, team learning with personalized work that validates the importance of satisfaction and fulfillment as well as a work-life balance. Embrace technological literacy and avoid pure lecture – promote involvement and engaging behavior. Thinking about the Future – Integrating Mentoring into the Lawyer Professional Development Continuum: Amy Timmer, Associate Dean of Students and Professionalism Professor, Thomas Cooley School of Law; Cheryl Niro, Esquire, Robinson & Niro; Robert M. Wilcox, Associate Dean for Academics, USC School of Law From The ABA’s Excellent & Inevitable Journey to Incorporating Professionalism in Law School Accreditation Standards After conducting a review of the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools to assess the program’s current minimum requirements for J.D. degrees, the ABA concluded that professionalism should be added to the existing standards law schools must abide by. According to the Chair of the Standards Review Committee, preparing new lawyers for “ethical participation in the legal profession” should be the goal of the American legal education program, which would entail law schools teaching beyond the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to teach ethics and professionalism in a broader sense, focusing on “an apprenticeship of professional identity” through concepts of professional ethics and morality. Lawyers have an obligation to maintain the integrity of the legal profession separate from the duties lawyers owe the public, their clients, and the legal system in general as stated in Model Rules of Professional Conduct 8.1 and 8.3. In addition to taking the actual bar exam, graduating law students must also take the MPRE and pass a character and fitness review, which is aimed at protecting the public by “shielding clients from potential abuse and safeguarding the administration of justice” and preserving the legal profession. Bar certification allows lawyers to affirm their shared values in a self-regulating community. Furthermore, since bar certification aims to preserve the legal profession and its reputation, it naturally follows that law schools should partake in instilling professional and ethical attributes in their students: while law schools cannot change a student’s past behavior, they can change how the student views his or her past behavior through realization of responsibility for past actions and teaching them to avoid repeating such negative behavior later in life. This standard involves law schools helping their students to develop a professional identity through “mature moral thinking.” However, the costs of attending law school, the bad legal job market, and being a lawyer make this a difficult message for law schools to get across to their students. Such action is even more important during a time when disciplinary problems within the legal professional are at a high because lawyers who are not aware of the legal profession’s expectations of them will eventually get into trouble and risk losing their legal license – a bunch of minor deviations will eventually add up. The ABA is in the best position to comprehend and encourage the need for professionalism instruction in law schools, and it has taken steps to begin this process, and the need for this change has been recognized by certain divisions within the ABA, such as the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, ABA Center for Pro Bono, ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, and ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Also, according to one ABA poll, the majority of public dislike for lawyers stemmed from a “lack of ethical standards enforcement.” Thus, if law schools took the initiative to help students establish a professional identity before they entered the legal workforce, law firms would experience less of a burden in educating new associates about professionalism and disciplining them for their professional and ethical deviations. To do so, law schools could supplement regular course material with ethical and professional considerations. The ABA Accreditation Standards Review Committee should take on the task of incorporating professionalism into the accreditation standards because it “can encourage and require training and education of law students that can help produce the kind of lawyer the public may appreciate.” In its National Action Plan on Lawyer Conduct and Professionalism, the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility said that law schools should “provide students with the fundamental principles of professionalism and basic skills for legal practice” in their curriculum and “assist bar admissions agencies by providing complete and accurate information about the character and fitness of law students who apply for bar admission.” Now, the ABA Accreditation Standards Review Committee is considering proposed modifications to the Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, emphasizing a focus on knowledge, skills, and values. The Statement of Principles of Accreditation and Fundamental Goals of a Sound Program of Legal Education set forth 2 goals pertaining to professional identity: teaching students the essential skills and abilities they need to practice law competently and teaching students to appreciate the role of ethics in their work. Law school professors can guide their students through this process of professional identity development – they also serve as role models for their students, not just teachers. Law schools can also facilitate this process by screening applicants and looking for those who have a potential for developing a professional identity and by hiring professors and faculty who are experienced in the area of ethical dilemmas. It’s difficult today for law schools to ignore ethics as cheating is an issue; schools need to actively investigate and punish cheaters and others who commit unethical conduct as it’s a reflection upon the legal profession, not just the law school because academia is a profession with ethical standards as well. Surprisingly, self-reporting is lower in schools with honor codes; honor code violations are automatically reported to the bar association character and fitness committees. There needs to be a focus on classroom criteria, accountability, and external contacts and influence through a continuum ranging from substantive law at one end and clinicals and externships at the other: all courses need to incorporate ethical considerations into their curriculum. Programs like clinicals allow law schools and professors to see how a student reacts under pressure to get an idea of how they’ll perform in practice. This transition begins with institutional integrity, meaning that law schools have to take pride in their students and their legal education. From Amy Timmer, Portfolio Mentoring Exercise, Thomas M. Cooley Law School Mentoring is often short-term, and it is a great way for some people to receive advice and feedback that could help advance their own professional development. With self-mentoring, the student is a “partner in his/her own development” and gains information via his/her own techniques. It’s a very proactive process for the student achieved through information seeking, feedback seeking, relationship building, general socializing, positive framing, and learning language and customs by asking questions, observing, and conversing. Mentoring episodes are “short-term developmental interactions that occur at a specific point in time” and lead to a mentoring relationship. Such episodes can lead to “excitement for learning, empowerment, increased sense of worth, new knowledge, [and] desire for more connection.” These involve the student putting him/herself in a position where he/she is among attorneys and can use the self-mentoring methods to spark a discussion that will help him/her with his/her professional development. Opportunities for mentoring episodes often exist in many situations throughout law school. Alumni offices keep lists of alumni who are willing to mentor students. They can help you find lawyers in your area who practice in areas of law you are interested in practicing once you graduate. Approach such individuals initially by email to schedule an informational interview. State bar associations are often looking for student members for their section membership. Joining a section of the state bar will allow you to meet lawyers practicing that type of law, and a mentoring opportunity may come of it in the form of a relationship or episode. The same applies to local and affinity bar associations as well. Legal fraternities like Phi Delta Phi and Phi Alpha Delta are devoted to professionalism, ethics, and service and can lead students to meet the fraternity’s alumni, who may want to assist students as they go through law school. Faculty members “give advice and knowledge for a living,” and they’re all over the law school. Connect with one and see what you can learn from them. Don’t find a mentor to have them get you a job. Find a mentor to do things like help you with concerns you have about law school, expose you to a specific area of practice, discuss your professional development, review your resume, write you a letter of recommendation, give you advice, or introduce you to other people working in the legal profession and develop a network of contacts. Mentoring activities include job shadowing, conducting informational interviews, reviewing professional portfolios, participating in community service activities, and attending professional events together. From Charles R. Toy, Episodic Mentorship: A Professionalism Tool we Should Sharpen, MICHIGAN BAR JOURNAL (2009). A gap exists between graduating law school and being prepared to practice law outside of an academic atmosphere in the real world. Law schools have tried to remedy this through clinics, but clinical participation is not 100%. Some states require mandatory CLE or mentoring relationships. Mentoring episodes are very beneficial: they “pass on the intricacies of legal practice to the next generation of attorneys” and “engender excitement for learning, develop competency, impart empowerment and sense of worth, increase the desire for connection, and generally contribute to professional development.” These mentoring episodes are common at state bar section and local or special-purpose bar association events. They can also happen at CLEs and even in the courtroom between attorneys and observers. Furthermore, email and other communication technologies allow for long-distance mentoring to occur, and one bar association even has an e-mentoring program. Young lawyers and law students need to seek out opportunities for episodic mentoring and be receptive when an attorney is interested in helping them. Transition to Practice: A Mentoring Initiative for Local Bar Associations, State Bar of Texas State Bar of Texas Local Bar Services P.O. Box 12487 Austin, TX 78711 (800) 204-2222, Ext. 1517

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