As they emerge from the cloistered halls of law school, most newly minted attorneys have little if any experience with the day-to-day practical realities of practicing law. While they may have received a solid education in the substance of the law from their professors, young lawyers look to their more-experienced colleagues for wisdom and guidance about the real-world issues they will face as practicing attorneys. Similarly, seasoned members of the bar can promote and inculcate among the next generation of lawyers the core values of the profession, including the importance of diversity and inclusion.
Recognizing this fact, the Illinois Supreme Court adopted Supreme Court Rule 795(d)(12) in October 2010 upon the recommendation of the Commission on Professionalism. Pursuant to the Rule, lawyers completing a year-long structured mentoring program, as either mentors or mentees, may satisfy their entire professional responsibility CLE requirement. It is in the truest sense “continuing legal education” for all participants. Mentees will appreciate the networking and informal, fact-specific advice provided, and mentors will also reap significant benefits from the relationship, including learning new ways in which technology can enhance their practice and ensuring that good young lawyers stay in the community. Mentoring thus is a process whereby education and the transmission of the principles of civility, professionalism, ethics and diversity are weaved into the social fabric of the legal community.
The Commission’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program, which is currently being rolled out in Chicagoland and statewide, serves two important goals: first, the development of a relationship between a new lawyer and a more experienced lawyer; and second, education about professional responsibility topics that require situational or practical exposition to be fully appreciated.
The Commission has developed procedural guidelines and protocols for learning focused mentoring whereby experienced attorneys facilitate the professional learning and development of new lawyers. Any law firm, law school, bar group, state, county or local government agency, or circuit court of Illinois may submit a lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program to the Commission on Professionalism for preapproval. To encourage participation in the program and to make it easy for organizations to adopt, the Commission has developed a detailed Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Plan which can be used in whole or modified as needed. In order to further assist organizations with their program development and implementation, the Commission also created the Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program Guide which spells out all of the steps for running a successful program.
The Mentoring Plan consists of worksheets organized around the five substantive areas of professional responsibility CLE (legal ethics, professionalism, diversity, civility, and substance abuse and mental illness) from which the mentoring pair can select activities and discussions for the twelve months of the formal relationship. Organizations can complete the Commission’s quick online Mentoring Program Application and designate a program administrator who will be responsible for starting and managing the program during the course of the year. The Commission has developed a training and orientation program for administrators, mentors and mentees that will assist them as they begin their mentoring journey. Although administration of the program will be at the organizational level, the Commission’s staff will be available to answer any questions and otherwise support the successful implementation of the mentoring program. The Commission’s Web site offers a plethora of resources.
The Commission is already supporting participants in the program and is looking forward to meeting with firms and other organizations as they consider joining this exciting and important program. The Commission envisions the Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program as a powerful way to pass on the highest aspirations of the legal profession to the next generation of attorneys, and as a means of advancing principles of diversity and inclusion which will benefit the profession as a whole. Where will new lawyers better learn ethical and professional behavior, the skills of civility, integrity, and inclusion and work/personal life balance than from an experienced mentor?
For further details please call the Commission on Professionalism at 312.363.6210 or visit the Web site at <to access information, including downloadable forms and materials. ■