by Elizabeth A. Wright
At the Utah State Bar Summer Convention in Sun Valley, Idaho, the Bar Commission will recognize Sharon Donovan of Dart, Adamson & Donovan and Riley “Josh” Player, an Assistant District Attorney at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, as Outstanding Mentors in the New Lawyer Training Program (“NLTP”). New lawyers who have been mentored in the NLTP were invited to nominate their mentors for the first “Outstanding Mentor” award to be given in July. Though Ms. Donovan and Mr. Riley are to be commended for their outstanding service, there were many other terrific nominees. The large number of thoughtful nominations indicates that the new lawyers are truly appreciative of the time mentors devote to them and the relationship that is formed. The following comments from mentees demonstrate the significance of mentoring in the early stages of a lawyer’s career:
• “The relationship that [my mentor and I] developed through the mentoring program is one of the most valuable assets I maintain in my practice.”
• “[My mentor] guided me through my first year as an attorney and continues to do so as I become a more experienced attorney. I am a better attorney because of [my mentor’s] guidance.”
• “I gained a life-long friend and confidant.”
• “My mentor taught me how to be a good member of the legal community.”
• “[My mentor’s] encouragement and advice helped me through a very difficult first year as a new lawyer.”
• “[My mentor] was genuinely interested in making sure that I was prepared to be a well-rounded and skilled attorney.”
The Bar’s mentoring program has been humming along nicely since 2009. The NLTP requires new admittees to the Utah State Bar to work with a Utah Supreme Court Approved Mentor during their first year of practice.1 The mentor and new lawyer are required to meet once a month for twelve months to discuss the new lawyer’s legal work, professional development, and adjustment to the practice of law. They are also required to discuss the Rules of Professional Conduct as a means of more effectively teaching and fostering professionalism, ethics and civility. Both the new lawyer and the mentor receive twelve CLE credits for participating in the program. There are 804 approved mentors in the NLTP, 285 of whom are currently mentoring new lawyers. By the time this article appears in print, 561 new lawyers will have completed the program.
As Coordinator of the NLTP, I have the pleasure of interacting on a regular basis with our state’s newest lawyers and have found it extremely rewarding to work with new lawyers as they begin their careers and find their way in the profession and our legal community. I am glad to answer new lawyers’ questions about the Utah State Bar, how it works and what it offers to them professionally and personally.
However, because of the way the NLTP is designed, I have much less interaction with our NLTP mentors. I am aware of the time and effort NLTP mentors are devoting to their mentees, not only because I know what the program requires of them, but because I hear from the new lawyers about the work they do together. I know the practice of law is stressful and time consuming. I know people’s personal lives are busy. I know that mentoring hours are non-billable. So when I see and hear what NLTP mentors are doing to teach and help their mentees I am appreciative, but I also hope and wonder if they are glad they took on this huge task.
Why would a busy, experienced lawyer take the time to mentor a new lawyer? There are multiple studies and articles that discuss the benefits of mentoring for the mentor.2 The benefits of mentoring include building leadership skills, expanding horizons, revitalizing an interest in one’s own career, and expanding one’s professional network. Mentoring is good for business because it helps legal organizations attract and retain good lawyers. Finally, mentoring is community service. Lawyers who are successful and/or who had mentors themselves often like and want to give back to the profession.
To find out if NLTP mentors are reaping the benefits of mentoring, the Bar did a survey of mentors in 2011. The mentors who responded all said they would mentor again and recommend mentoring to other experienced practitioners. 88.7% think that mentoring is an effective way to train new lawyers in the practice of law. 94% will maintain a relationship with their mentee. 87.3% feel they benefitted from participating as a mentor.
Here are some quotes from the survey that support what the studies say about the benefits of mentoring:
• “Mentoring made me reflect on my practice and how I could improve.”
• “It is gratifying to pass on what you have learned in practice.”
• “It gave me an appreciation of how hard it is to commence a practice and what ‘blind spots’ new lawyers have that require assistance.”
• “I had to pay much more attention to detail and it required me to make sure I understood and followed correct procedure. Mentoring required me to update myself on certain areas of the law.”
• “It made me review the Rules of Professional Responsibility.”
• “It helped me share my experience and advice to better help the new lawyer, which in turn made me feel better about my job as an attorney.”
• “I benefited as it was a way of paying back to those that encouraged me in my early legal career.”
• “I had to analyze the ‘why’ of things.”
• “The preparation for each session was good review for me.”
• “New relationships will foster career development for both parties.”
• “I made a much stronger connection to the new attorney than would have taken place otherwise.”
• “It is a great feeling to be a mentor. Both times have been very special, particularly at months 10, 11, 12 as you realize how much you’ve been able to do together.”
• “I enjoyed being around enthusiastic young people.”
• “Acting as a mentor showed me how much my knowledge, skills, and confidence have increased since I was a new lawyer. I confirmed that I actually know a few things about practicing law and doing it well.”
The survey results mirror the scholarship about mentoring and demonstrate that mentors find the mentoring experience personally and professionally beneficial. Serving as a mentor creates an opportunity for mentors to develop new business contacts, friendships that may last a lifetime, the opportunity to pass on some of their insights from years of practice, and the satisfaction of knowing they have contributed positively to the well-being and integrity of the profession.
1. New admittees who have practiced in another jurisdiction for at least two years or who live outside of Utah are exempt from the NLTP.
2. See, e.g., Raymond A. Noe, David B. Greenberger and Sheng Wang, Mentoring: What We Know and Where We Might Go, 21 Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management 129, 151 (2002); Connie R. Wanberg, Elizabeth T. Welch and Sarah A. Hezlett, Mentoring Research: A Review and Dynamic Process Model, 22 Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management 39, 52-53 (2003); Sharon K. Gibson, Being Mentored: The Experience of Women Faculty, 30 Journal of Career Development 173, 173 (2004).
Thank You to those who are currently mentoring a new lawyer in the New Lawyer Training Program. The future of the legal profession is stronger because of your service.
J. Keith Adams
H. Dickson Burton
Mary Jane Ciccarello
T. Edward Cundick
Mr. Dana Facemyer
Mr. Dana Farmer
J. Edward Jones
J. Bruce Reading
Anne Marie Taliaferro
Richard Van Wagoner
Judge R. Scott Waterfall
Judge Brent West