The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor

President's Page

Photo of Florida Bar President Michelle Suskauer

I recently had the privilege of spending time in Sarasota’s legal community where I learned about the Booker High School Law Academy . Students in this enriching high school program are studying caselaw and precedent, preparing opening arguments, and participating in mock trials. Each student is paired with a mentor — a judge, or a retired or practicing attorney — from the Sarasota County Bar Association.

To have that mentoring relationship so early in life, when they would not otherwise have it, is very special. The Booker Law Academy generates interest in the law in these young adults, lets them develop literary and public speaking skills, and otherwise helps prepare them for the future. Their attorney mentors are invaluable in this process and their support will have a lasting, positive impact. Whether these students go on to work in the civil or criminal justice system in some facet — as lawyers, police officers, paralegals, probation officers, or clerks — or decide on another career path, they are now informed citizens and have developed excellent life skills.

As lawyers, many of us wouldn’t have come far in our careers if it wasn’t for a mentor. Mentors help new lawyers in various ways, whether it’s in a substantive area of law, with practice-related questions, or on a personal matter. It is incredibly helpful to bounce ideas off of someone who has had the same experiences or just has a different perspective. When you’re involved in a complex or time-consuming issue, it helps to have someone who has a “30,000-foot view.”

When I was a young assistant public defender, I was mentored by my aunt, Sherry Hyman; Justice Barbara Pariente; and my husband, Scott, who was already a public defender and experienced trial attorney when we met. They gave me tremendous guidance and support. I was lucky to have them in my life and would not be where I am today without them.

Unfortunately, many lawyers are on their own and don’t have someone they can ask for help. These are the attorneys The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division was thinking about with the Lawyers Advising Lawyers program
, which is a “virtual hallway” that allows a lawyer in need of answers to connect with a more experienced lawyer for advice. Lawyers Advising Lawyers is an online tool for solo practitioners or other attorneys who need advice about an unfamiliar area of the law, procedure, or other topic without having to leave their desks. The tool is also useful for lawyers who want to share their advice and experience.

Also initiated by The Florida Bar YLD, the Legal Accelerator contains nearly 1,000 mentoring videos, which cover every imaginable subject with plain and practical advice. The videos are easily searchable from the landing page of the member portal on the Bar website. If you are mentoring a young lawyer, the Legal Accelerator would be a great tool to pass onto them.

Looking back to my time as a young lawyer, I have been so fortunate to have mentors in my life who helped shape my professional career. Because of the impact on my life, I know that we have a responsibility to lift others. These relationships can be organic or matched up through an organized program. It could be as short as one conversation or a lifetime relationship, but both can be equally impactful. I’ve always said we’re in this together. We are not practicing law and living life in a silo. We are in a community. Mentoring is about relationships, and they can only change and enrich us.