College of Law alumni make mentoring work for new attorneys

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. 

“Overall, the response has been very positive,” said Taylor. “This year we have four repeat mentors. Additionally, two of the 2012 mentors have asked me to reach out to them for 2014.” Though mentorship positions aren’t restricted to DePaul alumni, Taylor said all but one of the current mentors is an alumnus. 

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.