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Board approves new Special Committee on Mentoring New Lawyers

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'It’s a program to put mentors with lawyers of three years or less at law firms with three attorneys or less'

Gary Lesser

Gary Lesser

In a move that signals a new Bar priority for the coming year, the Board of Governors has agreed to create a “Special Committee on Mentoring New Lawyers.”

The board voted unanimously to form the special committee at a May 20 meeting in Tampa, a day after the Program Evaluation Committee endorsed the proposal.

“It’s a program to put mentors with lawyers of three years or less at law firms with three attorneys or less,” PEC Committee Chair Roland Sanchez-Medina told the board.

“Through the program, a mentee would be able to get help from a mentor on everything from specific practice advice, professionalism counsel, or career guidance,” according to a staff analysis.

The special committee’s mission includes three “desired deliverables.”

• The committee will develop the structure of the program including requirements for both mentor and mentee, and timeframe of connection;

• The committee will also identify ways to incentivize participation including consideration of possible CLE credits and recognition for participants at the end of the program;

• The committee will also work with the Communications Committee on recruitment and promotion for the program.

The proposal was requested by President-elect Gary Lesser, a veteran West Palm Beach attorney who will succeed President Michael Tanner at the June 22-25 Annual Convention in Orlando.

Lesser told the board that mentoring programs are badly needed as a growing number of lawyers, under pressure to pay off student loans, launch practices fresh out of law school.

“Twenty or 30 years ago, people got good jobs at law firms, or government agencies, there were many more natural places to find good mentors,” Lesser said. “There’s no one to give them advice on professionalism, there’s no one to give them advice on substantive law.”

Lesser referred to his recent work as co-chair of the Special Committee for the Review of Professionalism in Florida, a Tanner priority.

At his swearing in ceremony last year, Tanner referred to a Bar survey in which members identified “lack of ethics/professionalism” as a top concern.

Lesser said he has been mulling the idea for the past few years. Mentoring programs could also go a long way toward improving professionalism, he said.

Lesser cited a proliferation in unprofessional email exchanges.

“Sometimes [beginning lawyers] think the best response to a mean email, to be a good attorney, is to say something meaner,” he said. “The one thing that is really terrifying is that they don’t know what they really don’t know.”

Two Young Lawyers Division former presidents, Zack Zuroweste (2017-2018) and Katherine Hurst Miller (2016-2017), have agreed to serve as co-chairs.

Sanchez-Medina called them “extraordinarily hard workers.”

Lesser said he was pleased that the two former YLD presidents agreed to serve.

“They can bring a good perspective based on their experience,” he said.

According to a staff analysis, the special committee has until October to deliver its recommendations to the board.

“I’m talking the end of the calendar year, not the Bar year,” Lesser said.

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