Become a mentor or mentee
“Show me a successful individual, and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living – if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”
– Denzel Washington
I’m in my 24th year of practicing law and as I look back, I’ve been blessed to have had wonderful opportunities. I’ve worked at the same firm my entire career and even before that as a law clerk during the summers when I was in law school. I was given chances to try cases on my own from the very beginning of my career (in fact, I’ve never actually second chaired a trial). But all these opportunities that I’ve been given stem from the fact that I’ve had great mentors in my career in Bill Shernoff and Mike Bidart.
I’m writing this article after just having come back from the fantastic 2017 CAALA Vegas Convention. During the convention, many young lawyers came up to me to ask if there was a time that we could meet up for lunch or coffee to just talk about the practice of law and the direction that their careers are going. I always try to make myself available for mentoring meetings like that because I remember how valuable mentorship was for me, particularly in the beginning stages of my career. It also got me motivated to write about CAALA’s Mentor Program for this column.
CAALA is a unique organization in many ways. But one thing that clearly separates us from any other association is our culture of being there for each other. Just like I saw at CAALA Vegas, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attended a mixer or an education program and watched as our leaders and veteran members make themselves available to newer, younger members. And, of course, the CAALA List Serves let them connect directly with thousands of members.
But the Mentor Program is probably our best example of members being there for each other.
The program offers new lawyers the opportunity to develop one-on-one relationships with accomplished attorneys and benefit from their experience. It is a structure for experienced attorneys to share their wisdom with new lawyers and offer advice and guidance on legal issues, business development, procedural and ethical dilemmas and even office politics.
How to participate
Today, 475 CAALA members participate in the program as mentors or mentees. That’s more than 15 percent of our membership, which shows you how important the program is to us. Many members serve as a mentor for several mentees. CAALA’s membership director, Liz Hagan, personally matches each mentor and mentee and administers the program. Thus far, 67 new mentees have been paired with a mentor this year alone.
It’s really easy to get involved either as a Mentor or Mentee. To be eligible for the program, all that is required is an active CAALA membership. There is an online enrollment form that can be accessed by going to the CAALA website at www.caala.org. Once you submit your enrollment form, you will be assigned either as a Mentor or Mentee and will receive an introduction email from CAALA.
Mentorships are ultimately based on personal relationships. It takes more than an initial introduction to develop a successful mentor relationship. The Mentor and Mentee must make a time commitment to develop the trust and interpersonal relationship that is necessary for a fully engaged mentoring relationship.
Effective communication is essential to establishing a good mentoring relationship. Once assigned, the Mentor and Mentee should share their expectations, including time commitment, best method of contacting each other, and the goals of the mentor relationship. Communications between the Mentor and Mentee should be kept confidential, both in discussing legal issues and/or office matters.
If you decide to enroll in CAALA’s Mentor Program, consider an initial face-to-face meeting: Although phone introductions are quick and convenient, a face-to-face meeting is more likely to personalize the relationship. Exchange email addresses, office and cell numbers: The hallmark of a good mentorship is that both parties are available for each other. By exchanging this information, both the Mentor and Mentee establish that they are committed to developing a successful mentorship.
Mentorship meetings can be as easy as time between court hearings, during a lunch break, observing a Mentor in trial, attending a CAALA seminar, mixer event or meeting. These are just a few examples of times Mentors and Mentee can meet.
The CAALA Mentor Program is as rewarding for the Mentor as it is for the Mentee. Giving back and paying it forward is what loyal CAALA members are all about and the Mentor Program gives Mentors the chance to do just that. It is another example of how CAALA’s Mentors continue to grow and strengthen the organization by passing the baton to the next generation. So for those of you considering enrolling in the program as a Mentor, I leave you with the following quote from Winston Churchill:
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
Ricardo Echeverria is a trial attorney with Shernoff Bidart Echeverria LLP, where he handles both insurance bad-faith and catastrophic personal-injury cases. He is currently the incoming President of CAALA and was named the 2010 CAALA Trial Lawyer of the Year, the 2011 Jennifer Brooks Lawyer of the Year by the Western San Bernardino County Bar Association, and a 2012 Outstanding Trial Lawyer by the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego. He was also a finalist for the CAOC Consumer Attorney of the Year Award in both 2007 and 2009, and is also a member of ABOTA and the American College of Trial Lawyers.
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