State Bar of Michigan's new Mentor Board launched

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

According to the most recent State Bar of Michigan (SBM) survey, 69 percent of the members support a lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program, and the Strategic Plan prioritizes mentoring programs.

"Now, after months of careful planning," said Julie Fershtman, SBM President, "the JobTarget Mentor Board is launched. While participation is voluntary, all members are encouraged to sign up to help ensure its success."

''Our hope is that the mentoring relationships created through the new Mentoring Center provide seasoned lawyers an opportunity to give back by helping newer lawyers improve their skills and serve their clients better," said SBM President Julie Fershtman. "Ultimately, it is the public that benefits.''

Greg Ulrich, Chair, Master Lawyers Section, in a recent e-mail to members of the section, also encouraged members to sign up as mentors.

"As members of the Master Lawyers Section," he wrote, "we have experiences that can bring to life the standard of professionalism our newer members should embrace to deliver the best possible legal services to the public. The Mentoring Center allows us to share what we have to offer in a direct and personal way."

Historically, mentoring was the method used to learn the law. Before there were law schools, those wishing to study the law, such as Abraham Lincoln, "read the law" under the guidance of a mentor. In the 13th century England, judges provided apprenticeship of lawyers.

Today, while the majority of the states require a law degree to practice law, mentoring as a means of training still exists in states such as New York, which allows applicants to sit for the bar examination without a law degree after completing four years of study in a New York law office under the supervision of a lawyer and completion of one plus years of law school.

Law school graduates in today's economic climate are often faced with starting out on their own. They do not have the advantage of learning the practice of law under the tutelage of experienced members of a firm thus the need for mentors to step in to offer assistance and the State Bar of Michigan's call for lawyers to act as mentors.

To register for the program, users sign in and create a profile consisting of information about their location, practice area, and interests. Once complete, the system generates a list of potential mentors/protégés who have the most similar answers. Then it's up to the mentor or protégé to reach out to a potential match and start a conversation.

According to the SBM staff, signing up for membership takes no more than five minutes. In the interests of good reporting, I registered for a membership. It took me about ten minutes, mostly due to ruminations about what to include in a profile description. Still, it is a short period of time considering the benefits to the profession.

And, once registered, it's completely up to the parties to determine the scope of their relationship. Users can dedicate as much or as little time as they are able.

Those wishing to register or for more information, please contact the SBM mentoring center.

Published: Mon, Aug 13, 2012