Why We Mentor Our Associates
By: Joy M. Feinberg and Gia M. Conti / January 28, 2021
In a world where everything is going digital, mentorship in the law remains relevant and continues to evolve. Mentoring is more than just teaching someone how to be a “good lawyer.” Feinberg Sharma mentors the attorneys in our firm so that they take pride in themselves, their work product, and our firm.
Beginning with our younger associates and law clerks, we mentor internally and encourage associates to seek additional guidance outside of our firm. Internally, we train our associates on how to think critically – which involves learning the law from the bottom up, not just reading the statute. We want our attorneys to understand how laws are crafted such that they will eventually want to take part in bar associations in order to provide valuable input regarding the legislation that governs our day-to-day practice.
Mentored Associates Become Respected Members of the Family Law Community
Being a well-respected member of the family law community is just as important as understanding the law. We guide our associates on how to mingle with their peers and the judiciary. Our associates learn the importance of knowing their colleagues in a collegial setting and how it may ultimately enhance their ability to foster creative and unique resolution.
We want our lawyers involved in educational endeavors: from attending programs to writing and speaking. We also support our attorneys to become involved in non-legal organizations, including local and national charities. The firm pays for our lawyers to attend full-day seminars and lengthier programs that focus on specialized issues such as negotiation or trial skills. All of the firm’s lawyers write blog posts on topics they are passionate about or that are assigned to them so that our website has fresh, salient content.
Mentoring Helps to Turn Individuals into a Team
Together, the sum is greater than any individual part. We have an open-door policy so that all lawyers in the firm are available to learn from each other. Our senior lawyers routinely advise other lawyers about what worked, what did not work, what they discovered about certain issues, and what they heard or learned on a case or from a judge.
We foster an environment where everyone is part of a team or “firm family.” No matter how busy our schedules, we all check in on one another from time to time. If one attorney is in the weeds, we all come together to pitch in. There is an unwritten understanding that the relationship is mutual and reciprocal.
Part of being a well-respected and talented family law attorney includes learning from lawyers outside your own firm. Joy had such a relationship with a very senior lawyer who is just now embarking upon retirement. He remains one of the best trial lawyers in our industry. She has tried cases against him and can say they each bear the scars of their encounters.
During a recent trial in Federal Court, opposing counsel – with no notice – advised that they would be producing their overseas expert within one hour for examination. Joy had seen his report four days prior and made a series of notes covering four categories of cross-examination. As her questioning began, Joy realized she had taken on the style of her former opposing counsel. “I was channeling him,” she says. “As I progressively took apart the opposing expert, I said in my head, ‘We’re doing this together.’ I could hear him doing this!”
After the remote witness dejectedly left the witness chair in Europe, our team was beaming. At the conclusion of the trial, Joy called her colleague and told him the story. “He said it was the best gift he had ever been given: to know that I felt he had been a mentor to me,” says Joy. “The feeling was mutual. I was grateful for lessons learned from this master of the courtroom because he had elevated my practice.”
Mentoring is Emotionally and Financially Rewarding
Once associates and partners take pride in themselves, their sense of business development comes somewhat naturally. Our attorneys understand that their behavior reflects on our firm – whether in a pre-trial or shopping at their local grocery store. Our firm conducts quarterly “lunch and learns” that involve questionnaires and check-ins to promote business development among our associates. Encouraging business development among younger attorneys creates an invaluable sense of empowerment that is of little cost to a firm but pays big dividends – both immediately and into the future.
There is nothing more rewarding than asking a senior lawyer for help. Similarly, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing how their help has impacted another attorney.
Mentorship is a win-win for everyone – including our family law clients! – and a true learning experience for all involved. We have so many talented colleagues. It is important that we all learn from one another’s diverse backgrounds and continue to teach and support one another.
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