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Chief Justice Muñiz to join 84 ‘Counsel to Counsel’ mentors and mentees at convention

Senior Editor Top Stories

Logo for the Counsel to Counsel mentoring programChief Justice Carlos Muñiz will attend the first “Counsel to Counsel” graduation reception, a sign of the new Florida Bar mentoring program’s unique promise, and the Supreme Court’s determination to promote professionalism.

Chief Justice Carlos Muniz

Justice Muniz

Muñiz will join 84 mentors and mentees, the first class to complete the nine-month program, at a June 20 reception, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., at the Orlando Hilton Bonnet Creek during the 2024 Annual Florida Bar Convention.

“The success of the mentoring program is largely attributed to the MentorcliQ platform, which streamlined communication, milestone tracking, and participant feedback, ensuring our mentors and mentees were well supported throughout the program,” said Katie Jones, assistant director of the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, The Florida Bar arm that administers “Counsel to Counsel.”

The program matches beginning lawyers with three or less years of experience with established lawyers who have been Florida Bar members in good standing for five or more years.

When attorneys sign up for Counsel to Counsel, they fill out a brief survey and the program provides ratings on the compatibility between mentors and mentees.

From there, the mentor or mentee can choose their top three options, and the technology establishes the final match based on the responses.

“The matching is based on personality, practice area, and circuit,” Jones said.

Mentees agree to participate in a “practical experience,” such as attending a court proceeding. Four “milestones” help guide participants through monthly meetings and keep sessions on track.

Zack Zuroweste

Zack Zuroweste

The program matched 17-year Clearwater attorney Zack Zuroweste with beginning Tallahassee lawyer Danielle Lucas, a 2022 FSU Law School graduate.

Lucas, the daughter of New York paramedics, signed up after reading a promotional Florida Bar email. At the time, she was changing law firms and practice areas and feeling flustered.

Luck smiled on her, in many ways.

“It allowed me to have preferences in terms of mentors, to give it a little bit of my input,” Lucas said. “I got paired with Zack. We have very similar ways we approach problems, and we do practice in similar areas.”

More than just a good match for Lucas, Zuroweste is a former Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division president who helped design Counsel to Counsel when he co-chaired a special mentoring committee appointed by former Bar President Gary Lesser.

Zuroweste and Lucas describe the experience in a recent Center for Professionalism podcast moderated by Young.

Most mentor/mentee relationships fail because the lawyers have too little in common, Zuroweste said.

The MentorcliQ algorithm solves the problem by matching candidates with mutual interests and personalities, Zuroweste said. Used by Fortune 500 companies, including Sony, Disney, and Nasdaq, MentorcliQ has a proven track record, he said.

Danielle Lucas

Danielle Lucas

“When Danielle and I got paired on Zoom, we talked about ourselves, we talked about her challenges, we just naturally transitioned to a good relationship. It was all very natural and fluid.”

Counsel to Counsel solved a distance problem by facilitating monthly meetings via Zoom, although virtual meetings aren’t always ideal, Zuroweste acknowledged.

One of the biggest advantages for Lucas was being able to open up to someone who is outside of her firm.

“Sometimes, there’s things you don’t feel comfortable going to your boss with,” she said. “It really has exceeded all of my expectations going into it.”

Zuroweste imparted some important advice on financial matters and proved that balancing a legal career and family is possible, Lucas said. She wants to start a family eventually, but for now her hands are full with work — and caring for her dog.

“I look at Zack, he has a family, he has a practice, his wife is a judge, and they make it work,” she said. “It gives me confidence.”

Zuroweste advises mentees to follow Lucas’ example — show up for meetings on time and prepared.

“If you have a mentor who has agreed to work with you, they want to connect with you, but they’re busy too,” he said.

Lucas suggests that mentees never end a session with a mentor without scheduling the next meeting.

Mentors benefit as much as mentees from a successful relationship, Zuroweste assures.

“It’s not just a time suck. It really does remind you why you decided to practice law, and you feel like you’re contributing.”

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