Macomb Project Program Overview for Mentors
I. Starting at the Beginning
A. The Program Objective
The stated purpose of the mentoring program is to elevate the competence, professionalism and success of Michigan lawyers through positive mentoring relationships.
Specifically, your mentoring relationship should accomplish the following:
1. Foster the development of your new lawyer’s practical skills;
2. Increase your new lawyer’s knowledge of legal customs;
3. Contribute to a sense of integrity in the legal profession;
4. Promote collegial relationships among legal professionals and involvement in the organized bar;
5. Improve your new lawyer’s legal ability and professional judgment; and
6. Encourage the use of best practices and highest ideals in the practice of law.
B. More simply stated…
In thinking about how you will accomplish these goals, look to the following principles to apply during your mentoring relationship.
1. Let’s Not Recreate the Wheel
You have a great wealth of experiences to share with your new lawyer. Share techniques and strategies that you have found to be successful, and, when appropriate, reveal mistakes that you have made so that your new lawyer can learn from these experiences.
2. I Never Got the Memo
Much of the professional practice of law involves learning skills that are not found in law books and are not taught in law school. Do your best to provide guidance about professional practices, unwritten rules, and practical application of general legal concepts.
3. No Question is A Stupid Question
You are there to answer the many questions that your new lawyer has.
Make sure that your new lawyer understands that no question – no matter how insignificant or obvious it appears to be – should be off limits.
Although some of these questions may seem silly or trivial, realize that everything to your new lawyer is unfamiliar right now. Try to create an environment of trust so that your new lawyer feels free to ask these questions.
4. Let Me Introduce You To. . .
You are a veteran of our profession, and you should introduce your new lawyer to other lawyers and opportunities. You should help your new lawyer to develop relationships with other lawyers, find appropriate opportunities to better develop lawyering skills, and become involved in bar associations and other professional networks.
You may be assigned to a new lawyer who does not currently have employment in the legal field. You may offer to assist this new lawyer in his or her job search, but do not feel obligated to do so. Finding a job is not a program goal, and no mentor should feel pressured to find his or her new lawyer a legal position.
II. The New Lawyer Relationship
A. Your new lawyer is not your client.
1. The mentoring relationship does not create a confidential or privileged relationship between you and your new lawyer.
Obviously, we expect both you and your new lawyer to be discreet and respect each other when you confide in one another. However, there is ultimately no confidential relationship formed by mentoring.
You should discuss your expectations about being discreet during your first meeting. You should attempt to build a trusting relationship and create a safe space to share with your new lawyer so that he or she may share the feelings, experiences or questions that he or she is uncomfortable asking anyone else.
2. Your new lawyer’s clients are not your clients.
Because your conversations are not privileged and it is entirely possible that your new lawyer’s clients could have a conflict with your clients, you are prohibited from discussing privileged detailed information about your new lawyer’s clients or their cases. Instead, you should limit your discussions to hypothetical situations. Additionally, your new lawyer is expected to exercise his or her own professional judgment. Make sure that if your new lawyer seeks general guidance from you about a course of action in a particular case, the guidance you provide is not considered legal advice or your assumption of responsibility for whatever course of action the new lawyer may ultimately decide upon. If a new lawyer is really lost on a particular case, encourage the new lawyer to associate with competent counsel to provide competent representation.
3. You are not a source of referrals for each other. Referrals to or from your new lawyer are prohibited.
4. You are not associates.
B. Other Issues to Consider
1. Your new lawyer may be your children’s age
You are likely to be in a different generation than your new lawyer.
Because there are often misunderstandings when communication occurs between people of different generations, it is important to talk about each of your assumptions and values during the course of your relationship to avoid misunderstandings. Respect your new lawyer’s perspective even if it is different from yours.
2. You may be of a different ethnicity, race, gender or nationality.
Just as generational differences can sometimes create misunderstanding in communication, so too can differences in ethnicity, race, gender or nationality. If you and your new lawyer are of a different ethnicity, race, gender or nationality, you should consider your cultural assumptions and values and discuss them with your new lawyer so as to avoid miscommunication.
III. First Meeting of the New Lawyers
A. The new lawyer should articulate his or her specific goals for the mentoring relationship.
Discuss together three or more goals the new lawyer has for the mentoring relationship.
Keep in mind that a goal is something that one wants to achieve - an objective. A new lawyer reflecting on his or her goals for the mentoring program might complete the following statements:
a) I am most interested in the following activities. . .
b) I have the following personal development plans that I want to achieve in the next year. . .
c) I need to know more about. . .
d) I want to strengthen the following skills. . .
e) In five to ten years, I see myself doing. . .
IV. Problems in the Relationship
A. What if we don’t get along as well as I hoped we would?
If you are mentoring someone who you have not met before, it is entirely possible that you will not have perfect chemistry with your new lawyer. Worse yet, your personalities might clash.
Although the best mentoring relationship occurs when you connect with your new lawyer, the reality is people sometimes conflict. As a professional who must deal with a multitude of persons such as clients, associates, partners, opposing counsel, judges, and others, you know how to effectively communicate and deal with people who have conflicting personalities with yours so as to maintain a working relationship. Please make every effort to look past differences to serve as a mentor so that your new lawyer, who is also investing significant time into the mentoring relationship, benefits from the program.
V. Mentoring Expectations
A. The new lawyer and mentor should discuss their individual expectations and resolve any concerns over expectations.
Keep in mind that an expectation is a confident belief, strong hope or presumed notion that a particular result or event will occur. The exercise of listing the expectations of the mentoring relationship is intended to help the new lawyer and mentor understand each other’s intentions so that neither feels disappointed or betrayed when they do not conform to some expectation that was never made explicit and so that they can resolve from the outset any unrealistic expectations of each other.
To assist you in reflecting on the expectations you have of your mentoring relationship, think about how you might complete the following statements:
a) I expect that we will meet (how often) for (how long).
b) I hope that you will be otherwise accessible to me (how often and in what capacity).
c) I expect that we will do the following types of activities together. . .
d) I would like you to help me to. . .
e) I expect that you will treat me. . .
f) I think you need to know this about me. . .
VI. A Final Thought…
This program will only be as valuable as you and your new lawyer make it. Its success depends on your devotion of time to your mentoring relationship and your genuine interest in the discussions with your new lawyer. So please, give it your all because only then will you and your new lawyer enjoy its true value.
I wish you the best in this endeavor. If you have any questions or concerns along the way, please feel free to contact me.
Macomb County Bar Association
40 N. Main St. Suite 435
Mount Clemens, MI 48043
586-468-2940 ext. 100