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Developing Mentors to Help New Attorneys

Good Mentoring Should Bridge the Generational Gap

Article Date: Friday, September 09, 2011

Judge Jane Gray (left) moderates a panel of judges on the topic of courtroom etiquette at the CLE.

"Help Me, Help You: Mentoring New Attorneys in Challenging Times" was a new, live CLE program held on Friday, Sept. 9 at the N.C. Bar Center. The purpose of the program is to train volunteer attorneys to perform a service to the profession by helping them to become effective mentors for newly licensed attorneys.

A host of speakers were on hand to discuss topic ranging from generational differences in communication methods to courtroom etiquette.

Joyce Brafford, the NCBA's new assistant director of the Center for Practice Management, helped organize the CLE program and is working closely with the NCBA Mentorship Program and its implementation.

"This CLE was a great way for mentors to learn what to expect and how to handle the unexpected in a mentoring relationship," Brafford said. "I highly recommend the program to any person interested in becoming a mentor but who worries they may not be prepared."

Charlotte attorney Mark Merritt spoke about how the four distinct generations in the legal field differ and interact with each other. Merritt talked in length about how best to communicate with lawyers that are from different generation and that one approach to mentoring can be more situational than generational.

"We have a second-year associate in our firm and I thought the information in this program would not only help him adapt to the legal profession but it also helped me," program participant and Greensboro attorney Tom Cone said. "Focusing on the generational differences in regards to new attorneys was beneficial. I have kids the age of many of these new attorneys so I already do some of that but thinking about that in a legal perspective was helpful."

 John Sarratt spoke about depression and substance abuse that new attorneys may face.

Raleigh attorney John Sarratt gave a brief talk on depression and substance abuse issues that attorneys face and to let potential mentors know how to identify the warning signs in new attorneys. He focused on the benefits of the BarCARES program and other resources that benefit both sides of the mentoring equation.

David Mills of Smithfield spoke about practice management solutions and the use of technology that new attorneys are using. Established attorneys and mentors should be embracing and making an effort to learn and utilize advancements in technology.

"I really enjoyed hearing about the generational differences and how younger attorneys are thinking," program participant Kenneth Knight of Madison said. "When you are dealing with another lawyer it helps to be keyed in to what influences them and to understand how attorneys are using technology in their practice."
The program wrapped up its session with a panel of four judges from the local districts discussing courtroom etiquette and potential problem areas that mentors can address with new attorneys before they enter a courtroom.

This CLE was created by a planning committee under the leadership of Cindy Pittard. The committee was a result of the efforts of immediate past-president Eugene Pridgen and his NCBA Mentoring task force. This task force helped create the NCBA Mentoring Program and the mentoring CLE was part of the overall program objectives.

"The NCBA Mentoring Program gives mentors the resources they need to be effective teachers and leaders to new attorneys," Brafford said. "The goal is to ensure that every new lawyer has the guidance they need."

"We had three focuses for this CLE," Pittard explained. "We thought it was especially important for mentors to learn how to deal with new attorneys, how to help them get started with law practice management tips and how to have proper etiquette in front of judges in court."

CLE participants listen to the speakers at the mentoring program.