Mentoring has a natural place in today’s connected culture. Global organizations like IBM are implementing e-mentoring programs for young employees, and emerging online exchanges like PivotPlanet connect career changers to accomplished industry professionals. Increasingly, social networking platforms are used to maintain career connections outside of the office.
As the professional world becomes more socialized—and accessible— the new work force is benefitting from direct interaction with higherups. Protégés can easily initiate contact with experts in a field of interest, becoming active learners who direct the mentoring process.
Yet, modern mentorships don’t easily produce results. Mentees might not know what questions to ask. Shared ground also plays a big role, with research showing that the more a mentor and protégé have in common, the more they will invest in the relationship. And the benefit of face to-face meetings is almost essential in establishing rapport.
Responding to the need for effective mentorships, the College of Law recently integrated a program that takes great measures to ensure time well spent. In 2012, DePaul’s Institute for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution (IADR) launched the Lawyer-to-Lawyer (L2L) Mentoring Program, which operates under the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. It wrapped up its first year this past January.
Led by IADR Assistant Director Natalie Taylor, DePaul’s L2L program furthers the court’s efforts to change the legal culture in Illinois “one-on-one.” The program works by pairing new attorneys with seasoned professionals through careful recruiting, orientation and training, a highly structured outline and incentive for both parties to complete the program.
To participate in the program, mentees must be certified and practicing, or intending to practice law in Illinois. Among many other requirements, attorney mentors must be registered and in good standing, with a spotless record. Taylor also teamed up with Law Career Services (LCS) staff and Assistant Director Bonnie Tunick to invite specific graduates they felt could benefit from the program as mentees. This year, 24 attorneys signed up for L2L.
The program outline is divided into five areas of study to reflect the prongs of CLE rule. Each area contains talking points, which allow the pairs to review and structure their meetings ahead of time. Often, participants use these talking points as a springboard to approach additional areas they might not otherwise consider.
“That was nice—it’s as if you have a curriculum,” said 2012 L2L mentor George Pearce (JD ‘79). “But, then, when you’ve worked for 33 years as a lawyer you have a lot of stories, so it’s easy to take a concept and apply it to what you’re doing every day.”
Pearce is a partner at Holland & Knight and focuses on estate planning and representing family owned businesses. He said mentoring comes naturally for him. Pearce formerly oversaw the hiring of new attorneys at Holland & Knight as well as running their summer program for several years. He also serves on the College of Law Dean's Council. When Tunick reached out to him, he signed up.
Under the professionalism area of the L2L outline, mentors and mentees have the opportunity to cover basics of law office management. For Pearce’s mentee Maryam Fakouri (JD ’10), a librarian at Columbia College who recently graduated from the part-time evening program at the College of Law, this was one of the program highlights. “It gives you a more grounded view of what their day is like,” she explained, “and who they interact with.”
Once a month, Pearce invited her to meet at his office and address the topic of the day. Fakouri enjoyed the opportunity to experience an office environment and learn more about the day-to-day management of a law firm. “I was interested in routine aspects such as billing, keeping track of time,” she laughed, “and even organizing email.”
Though Fakouri had marked wills and trusts as a practice area of interest, she was also interested in discovering more about the world of legal issues connected with libraries. “George connected me with people who might have knowled ge there,” she said. In addition, “the program exposed me to practice areas outside of higher education.” Ultimately, Pearce put her in touch with five additional contacts, including his spouse Mary Sinclair Pearce (JD ‘79) who works at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of General Counsel, and an attorney at Holland & Knight who practices intellectual property law. Fakouri now counts IP as a focal point of her career pursuit. With its overlap in library issues, it’s a natural fit. “I would absolutely recommend this to other graduates,” she said.
One benefit of the L2L program is the opportunity for both mentors and mentees to receive six professional responsibility CLE credits upon completion. In order to meet CLE requirements, the Illinois Supreme Court has structured the outline to focus heavily on education in the context of the mentorship. This means that mentors often have the opportunity to learn along with their protégés.
“The program creates a wonderful dialogue,” said 2012 L2L mentor Mitch Goldberg (BA ‘96, JD ‘99). “It was educational for me, too. It got me thinking about issues I’d never really thought about before.”
Through L2L, Goldberg even found himself reexamining choices he made earlier in his career. “When you’re in the thick of crisis as a young lawyer, you don’t always take the time to realize—wow, that’s an interesting problem. Working through these situations has improved my own creative problem solving skills.” Goldberg is a partner at Lawrence Kamin Saunders & Uhlenhop, where he focuses his practice on commercial litigation, concentrating in securities and commodity futures law and alternative dispute resolution. He is also a trained mediator and has been involved with many DePaul programs, such as LCS Career Week.
Goldberg’s mentee, Valerie Magnuson (JD ’10) has a background in financial services, and indicated an interest in financial and securities law and employee benefits law. “It was nice to have these common denominators in our discussions,” said Goldberg. They often structured their conversations around issues arising in each other’s practice. For Magnuson, the program was beneficial in adjusting her outlook.
“It was a fantastic experience,” she said. Though Magnuson knew the importance of networking, she hoped to refine this skill through L2L. An affable out-of-state alumna, her professional circle was limited to former law school classmates and coworkers. “Mitch helped me with what my perception of networking was,” Magnuson acknowledged. “As a young attorney, one of the most valuable aspects was broadening my horizons as to how to better network.” Goldberg helped her learn to approach it without expectations about the interaction. Through L2L, Goldberg and Magnuson attended various professional events. “They were very social, but always tied it into current events and law,” Magnuson said. “It was an educational experience, as well as an opportunity to meet other lawyers and judges.”
Goldberg emphasized that he doesn’t participate in the program for the credit, citing numerous opportunities to earn CLE. “It’s really neat to see how a young lawyer thinks,” he explained. “When you see young attorneys faced with difficult decisions, and you see them make the right decisions—particularly in economically difficult times, when it’s easy to make the wrong decision—you have a sense of pride.”
Goldberg wasn’t surprised when the law school announced it was participating in the program. “DePaul is a fairly unique environment focused on developing good citizens and good people,” said the Double Demon. “Law school isn’t necessarily touchy-feely, but the professors and administration really care about the development of aspiring attorneys into good people.”
He added, “Natalie Taylor is emotionally invested in the success of all the various programs she works in. She’s developed enormous networks for our students, and in this case recent alumni.” Taylor said she wants to see a high success rate for the program’s second annual year. She plans to be in monthly contact with participants, and in conjunction with LCS, plans to hold a midpoint meeting for all participants, as well as issue monthly emails about mentoring. Taylor looks forward to expanding DePaul’s capacity to deliver resources and assistance to alumni.
Still, her work with the program relies on the participation of dedicated alumni like George Pearce and Mitch Goldberg. Both are currently serving as mentors in the 2013 L2L program. Pearce, who met his wife at the College of Law, said they reconnected with DePaul following a law alumni reunion.
“That just kind of brought us back,” he said. “I think the reunion connected us with some of the staff here, and people started reaching out to me more and I was receptive.”
On January 28, at the 2013 L2L program orientation, Goldberg, Magnuson, Pearce and Fakouri gathered to speak to new program participants about their yearlong experience. While Goldberg and Pearce met their new mentees for the first time, the evening also gave Magnuson and Fakouri, who were both part-time evening students, a chance to reconnect following hectic post-graduation schedules. “It was great to see Maryam,” said Magnuson, “We’re actually having lunch next week.”