Mentoring. Young professionals hear a lot about mentoring, but identifying an ideal mentor can be a challenge, and finding the time is yet another challenge.
In 1996, the state of Georgia began exploring a structured mentoring program for new attorneys, and the Georgia Bar has since implemented a mandatory program. Subsequently, bar associations in Ohio and South Carolina have created similar programs.
In 2008, the Dallas Bar Association launched a structured yearlong mentoring program for lawyers who are starting their careers in Dallas. The all-volunteer program will assist new lawyers as they transition from the “study of law” to the “practice of law.”
A systematic mentoring program, such as this, can help new lawyers not only improve their professional abilities, but also succeed in the practice of law.
Newly licensed lawyers are matched with more experienced attorneys who volunteer to participate in the project, and the pairs will attend CLE programs, as well as meet in small groups or one-on-one. The Transition to Law Practice program coaches new lawyers in many areas, including law practice management, effective client representation, pro bono opportunities, career development, and other aspects of successfully practicing law.
Mentors are encouraged to be available to the new lawyers with which they are paired, to be a sounding board on issues commonly encountered by new practitioners.
The program is ideal for lawyers in large and small firms, law departments of corporations and government entities — transactional attorneys, as well as trial lawyers. The program is not intended to duplicate the efforts and mentor-like projects that exist in larger law firms and legal departments. Instead, The Transition to Law Practice program will augment these initiatives.
Transition programs have proved to be successful. Roughly 60% of the new lawyers who participated in Georgia’s pilot project reported that they were “very satisfied” with their legal careers. Further, a survey in Georgia showed that the lawyering skills most strongly impacted by the “transition” program were “the handling of ethical aspects of law practice and dealing with other lawyers.”
In Dallas, the Transition to Law Practice program has proven to be popular as well. Roughly 97% of both new lawyers and mentors surveyed during the inaugural year of the program said that they would recommend the program to new lawyers.