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Mentorship – sharing the wealth of your knowledge and paying it forward for others

Wm. Reece Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy, Class IX, Fellows Columns

Leadership AcademyMentorship, what does that mean to you? How has it affected your career? Mentorships allow for guidance and an opportunity for growth for mentees. Becoming a mentor takes time and dedication, as you will be pouring into someone who has less experience than you related to your profession. Mentors typically commit to spending a few hours per month to listen and provide guidance to a mentee. This guidance allows for the mentee to avoid some of the mistakes that more seasoned professionals have made; the sharing of professional experience and insight for navigating a particular arena.

As we look back on our careers, a lot of us recognize that we are where we are, and we are who we are, because someone took the time to pour their time, knowledge, and expertise into us.  Regardless of your profession, or years in your careers, the benefits of a mentor are priceless. As you begin a career, a new job, or just need guidance on pursuing your education, there is a great benefit of having someone who has walked in your shoes and navigated the path before you. For most of us, the path that we walk has been paved by someone else. And those that happen to create a new path forward create opportunity for those coming up behind them.

Mentorship relationships are invaluable and necessary. Here, we discuss our own experiences as mentors and mentees in the legal profession in hopes of providing a guiding path for attorneys and law students alike looking for such opportunities, and highlighting the importance of these relationships:

Danielle Spradley

Danielle Spradley

As I began my career as a young attorney, I have had the opportunity to have countless people invest in me as a mentee and I have been willing to be a sponge to take in all of the guidance that people were willing to offer. These mentors have provided me with skills that are beneficial to my career. This was especially important when I changed jobs or decided that I wanted to try my hand at a new area of the law. Organizations such as Women of Color Empowerment Institute have given me so many gems that opened my mind to things that I did not believe I had the capacity to achieve. But, through the mentoring that they offer, I expanded my niche and began a journey where I volunteered my time to organizations and started getting on executive boards, which has helped me grow professionally. While I still have a lot to learn, my professional journey has helped me recognize the importance of giving back. I have committed to mentoring other attorneys, as well as students in middle and high school in order to offer guidance, support, and a sounding board. 

Regardless of how long you have been in your career, there is someone who can benefit from your knowledge and experience, so think about paying it forward and considering becoming a mentor. 

Danielle Spradley

Jalesa Johnson

Jalesa Johnson

As a Leadership Academy fellow, I can attest to the fact that being a mentor and having mentors has shaped my legal career and professional path. It’s a true partnership between two people that has everlasting effects. Having a mentor has helped in various ways including assisting in finding employment, introducing me to programs/bar associations to get involved in or having someone to contact for advice. The legal field can sometimes be hard to navigate but my mentors have done a great job to assist and prepare me to be ready for all the twists and turns that I may encounter on the way. As I reflect on conversations with the other fellows, many of our mentors even encouraged us to apply to become a Leadership Academy fellow.

Serving as a mentor to others has also become a great contribution to my life and professional career. Assisting the younger generation has helped shape me into a better communicator, listener, and facilitator of information. I, along with the other fellows, enjoy mentoring and will continue to apply the information that our mentors have given us and pour it into others. The mentoring process is one of the best ways to learn and develop and can be the difference between making or breaking someone. It is a process of cross-cultivation where both parties involved seek benefit. 

Jalesa Johnson

Colleen Mullen

Colleen Mullen

As an attorney, and even as a law student, I received the benefit of the wisdom of my mentors. I learned of programs, scholarships, and fellowships through my mentors in law school, which gave me legal experience, leading me to the attorney positions I now hold. The mentor that had the most impact on my life was one who I found through informal means, an older work colleague who guided my first steps as an attorney. I am sure most attorneys have those informal mentoring relationships and know that they can be a source of guidance and a safe space to discuss issues.

I have also had the pleasure of mentoring young women during my time as a member of the Tallahassee Women Lawyers group through a partnership with FSU Law. I’ve seen these young women confront issues and rise above the challenges they have faced. These women are now colleagues and leaders in the legal community. I have learned as much from mentoring them as they could have learned from me. Helping young women become lawyers and leaders has been a very fulfilling endeavor for me and I highly recommend it to anyone considering becoming a mentor.

Colleen Mullen

Class IX Spotlight—Leadership Academy Fellows Making “Mentorship Moves” in Their Communities

Florida Bar Leadership Academy fellows are actively involved in mentorship programs throughout the state of Florida. Efforts by Class IX fellows Akiesha Gilcrist Sainvil, Brent Hartman, and Magdalena Ozarowski are highlighted below:

Akiesha Gilcrist Sainvil

Akiesha Gilcrist Sainvil

Class IX fellow Akiesha Gilcrist Sainvil currently serves as Miami City Lead for the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity’s (LCLD) Success in Law School Mentoring Program. The goal of that program is to ensure that law students from diverse backgrounds receive the mentoring that they need early on to maximize their potential as they progress through law school and begin their careers. The program partners with local law schools to match volunteer in-house and private practice attorneys with students traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession for mentoring to ensure that such students are equipped with the tools they need to succeed in law school and the legal profession. Since the pandemic started, there has been a virtual option and a Miami option, so both law students and attorneys throughout Florida have been able to participate regardless of whether their specific city has a program/program lead.  The program has been a great success. For students and attorneys interested in participating in the program, visit Success in Law School Mentoring | Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (lcldnet.org).

Brent Hartman

Brent Hartman

Class IX fellow Brent Hartman currently serves as a mentor in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association’s mentoring program. This program partners with the University of Florida College of Law, pairing law students with practicing attorneys to allow students to observe hearings, depositions, and other legal proceedings. The program also has social events, which are typically scheduled monthly. For students and attorneys interested in getting involved in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association’s mentoring program, visit Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association Mentoring Program – Home | Facebook.

Magie Ozarowski

Magie Ozarowski

Class IX fellow Magdalena (Magie) Ozarowski serves as a mentor with the Tallahassee Women Lawyers (TWL). TWL partners with the Women’s Law Symposium (WLS) at Florida State University Law School to pair one female lawyer mentor with one female law student for the entirety of the school year. This program has been in place for years, and has been quite successful. WLS members, through their relationship with TWL, are able to attend meetings, a semi-semester coffee social, and the annual Judicial Reception, among other things. Each student also gets the benefit of having their own mentor for the year to walk them through their 2L or 3L year. Many of these mentor-mentee relationships last long after law school, and a lot of the women who stay in Tallahassee after graduating from FSU end up members of TWL with their own mentee in the program.

How To Get Involved

In addition to the programs highlighted above, there are a number of ways students and attorneys can get involved in mentoring programs, whether as mentors or mentees. One of the best ways is to contact your local legal aid or legal services organization. Most are happy to find a mentor for an attorney pursuing a new area of law and are always looking for attorneys who have expertise in an area to mentor younger or less experienced attorneys. The same generally rings true for any bar association. Local voluntary and affinity bar associations can match you with a partner with similar interests and/or experiences. Finally, The Florida Bar Foundation Law School Challenge is a unique program that allows attorneys and law students to pick a case to work on together, with the attorney providing valuable guidance to the law student. Applications for that process opened up on January 19. For additional information and/or to register, visit 2022 Florida Pro Bono Law School Challenge.

There is always someone out there who has navigated the space where you may want to go.  So, if you need a mentor, or are looking to get involved in mentoring, consider these organizations.  These local groups have a wealth of opportunities available!

(Wm. Reece Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy, Class IX, fellows Akiesha Gilcrist Sainvil and Veronique Malebranche edited this column.)

(Editor’s Note: The deadline to apply for the 2022-2023 Wm. Reece Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy Class X has been extended to February 11. The Leadership Academy is open to all Florida Bar members who are in good standing. In an effort to achieve diversity among the participants, qualified individuals will be sought from different backgrounds, large and small law firms, the private and public sectors, different practice areas, and different geographical areas of the state.)

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