By John Baker, CAMP Director
Young lawyers – you should seek out and “latch onto” as many professional legal mentors as you can! Mentors will not only act as a role model to help you develop your own “professional identity,” but can, also, act as sponsors or champions to build your own professional network.
What is Mentoring?
Mentoring (one-on-one relationship between an experienced attorney and a young attorney) has always played an integral role in the development of a professional identity for members of the legal profession in Colorado. Whether it was partners and associates in law firms, senior lawyers and new lawyers in government agencies, or judges and their law clerks, this mentoring model prevailed. Some young lawyers found mentors outside of their firm or place of work, but the relationship was always one-on-one. This traditional “pairing” relationship works best because it promotes a trusting and private environment for the mentor and mentee to be frank and open with one another. It is a safe place for critical feedback between the lawyers.
How Does Mentoring Work in Today’s Legal Profession?
Law practice has changed over the last five to ten years, in part, driven by the challenging economic times, but also by the fast-paced, high-pressure, technology driven practice of law. Experienced attorneys and the young lawyers feel that they have less time for the mentoring. Many young lawyers have “hung out their own shingle” due to a shortage of law jobs. As a result, young lawyers have had to find their own mentor, and in many cases, they need to find many mentors. Some mentors will play the traditional functions of role model and trusted advisor, while others may act as a coach, teacher, phone call “tip provider,” or a “gateway” introduction to other mentors. Hopefully, each new lawyer will find mentors to be champions or sponsors to give them the “boost-up” which is needed by all to succeed in a firm, law office, the bar association, and in the profession generally. Sponsors and champion mentors are critical for women, ethnically diverse, and GLBT attorneys. WARNING: It is unrealistic for young lawyers to expect that their mentors will hire them or even find them a job. However, the mentors will help the young lawyers to develop the proper networks, contacts, and professional identity to find the jobs.
Where Do I Look for a Mentor?
No worries! Attorney mentoring in Colorado has evolved to keep up with the changes in the legal profession and in the legal system! In 2013, the Colorado Supreme Court, through the Chief Justice Commission on the Legal Profession, established the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP) to cope with the evolution of the legal profession and to help promote mentoring. CAMP collaborates with bar associations and other legal organizations to create mentoring opportunities in many of the 22 Colorado judicial districts. For example, the Denver Bar Association has been running a CAMP mentoring program for almost 5 years. To sign up for the 2015 DBA Mentoring Program, visit the DBA website at http://www.denbar.org/index.cfm/ID/21197/DBA/Mentoring-Program/.