It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program, Part 2

Margaret Frossard retired in 2010 after serving 13 years as a justice of the Illinois Appellate Court. She currently serves as the director of the Office of Professional & Engagement, and teaches trial advocacy, at The John Marshall Law School. She can be reached by e-mail at mfrossar@jmls.edu or by phone at (312) 427-2737, ext. 112. 

The John Marshall Law School’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program began in 2011 in collaboration with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, matching practicing alumni with recent graduates. Over the past two years, we’ve received a tremendous amount of feedback and support from the mentors and the mentees. We put that feedback to work, expanding the program dramatically and focusing the program on those issues of professionalism that affect all developing attorneys, while still leaving room for the mentors and mentees to create a unique relationship.

Last week, in Part 1 of “It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program,” I offered the insights of Karen Dimond, an assistant state’s attorney with the state of Illinois. Part 2 continues below with insights from Barry A. Kozak, an adjunct faculty member at John Marshall and the director of our Elder Law Programs.

Barry A. Kozak

Professor Barry A. Kozak, a mentor who teaches at John Marshall, served as a panelist for the mentoring orientation. Barry is the director of John Marshall’s Elder Law Programs. He mentors John Fehr who started his own law office, the Fehr Law Group LLC, with his brother, Karl, in the Monadnock Building at 53 W. Jackson Blvd. When I asked Barry what was different about the Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program, he offered the following interesting observations:

“I have considered myself to be a mentor to many law students and new attorneys for many years and have freely enjoyed helping each individual succeed; however, the Lawyer-to-Lawyer Program is something much more unique and special than simply being a sounding board. The structure and mandates for me as mentor actually made me think about and develop strategies that would benefit my mentee, based on his specific needs and desires. In turn, I wound up learning a lot from my mentee, as each meeting was a discussion and not simply me listening and offering advice off the top of my head. The bond formed between my mentee and me will hopefully endure for the remainder of both of our careers, and I certainly hope that he will become a mentor after he has some more experience under his belt. I actually cannot wait to rejoin the program in the future where I will be paired with other exciting and intelligent individuals who seek mentoring.”

Barry’s mentee John Fehr offered the following thoughts about his experience with the mentoring program:

“The mentor-mentee program is an incredibly valuable and structured program in which a new attorney can benefit from the wisdom of an experienced attorney. There are so many important issues and questions that arise for young attorneys. How should a new lawyer deal with a difficult client? What is the best way to organize a client file? What is the best way to speak and to argue before a judge? What are some weekly or monthly tasks that every small law firm should have in place in order to be successful and organized? Having a mentor to call on and consult with regarding inevitable questions like these makes this program well worth a new attorney’s time. I think mentors in this program will find that the new attorneys have many questions and are eager to learn from their years of experience.”

To view Part 1 of “It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program,” go to  http://professionalism.jmls.edu/. The series will conclude with the reflections of John Marshall grads Jeanine Cunningham and David Bickel.

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2 responses to “It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program, Part 2

  1. My brother suggested I might like this web site. He was entirely right.
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  2. Margaret,

    I love it!

    I, too, have been spreading the word about the Illinois Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism Mentoring Program to law students and recent grads regularly. John Marshall’s and your promotion of the program is such a no brainer in today’s legal climate. I would love to see more law schools incorporate the program into existing ones.

    I would like the program to take an additional step. As new attorneys typically are not in a position to compete for available lateral positions, I would love for them to be able to work on some sophisticated matters with their mentors — perhaps in ERISA or state tax or M and A, etc. I am suggesting that a new attorney would volunteer, gaining the benefits of (1) obtaining one-on-one guidance in a difficult subject area, (2) having his or her mentor bless the work performed, and (3) having the opportunity to build his or her resume.

    In exchange, the mentor would gain the beauty of one less file on her back credenza, an opportunity to teach, etc. This is especially a win-win if the client is difficult, the file has been billed to its maximum, if the client has a losing position or if there is hope of finding some good support for a client’s position. (We all have likely been treated at a hospital where interns visited us early in the morning; I liken the legal model in the same way. What client is really going to mind?)

    The MCLE credit for being a mentor or a mentee is available, but I do not feel this should be the motivator.

    Margaret, I will be meeting with Jayne Reardon of the Commission in the next month to talk about the possibility of taking the great program to this next step, a step which, I feel, is in keeping with the legal climate (as this rule was born out of the need to raise awareness about the lack of civility between lawyers). If you are interested, see my January 2012 article in the CBA Record on this subject.. http://www.chicagobar.org/AM/MembersOnly.cfm?ContentFileID=21091

    Thank you so much for your series.

    My best,

    Nancy
    Nancy@LegalLaunch.net

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