Wellness Wednesday: Mentoring

It’s been a bit since my last Wellness Wednesday post.  And, since I already blogged once today, I’m reluctant to do so again.  However, in that this morning’s was about trust accounting, my personal well-being requires a new post to cleanse my palate of my least favorite topic.

So, let’s consider mentoring as an aspect of well-being.

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I’ve long thought that mentoring provides an opportunity to improve well-being. Not only for the mentee and the obvious benefits of wise guidance, but for the mentor.  In fact, a quick search reveals that I’ve posted several blogs in which I urged lawyers to consider serving as mentors.

The first was Resolve to be a Mentor, a post in which I suggested that mentoring can be traced back to the earliest recorded guidelines of attorney conduct.  Next, here and here, I used the Wellness Wednesday forum to encourage lawyers to serve as mentors. The former referenced my tribute to Joan Wing.  Very few, if any, have done more to promote the wellness and well-being of the Vermont legal profession than Joan, with her various efforts including serving as a mentor to many lawyers who still practice today.  This blogger included.

My prior posts focused on the benefits to the mentee. I’ve never been able to articulate my feeling that, at some level, helping others to find their way benefits the helper as well.  Then, today, I saw the ABA Journal’s Mentorship is not all about the menteeIt’s a great post in which Katherine Gustafson reminds us that, yes, while ‘the benefits of being mentored have been extolled in articles everywhere,” when it comes to mentoring “before you reject the idea, consider the benefits that come with such a role.” Among those benefits, wellness.

Referring to the “intrinsic rewards” associated with mentoring, Gustafson notes:

“Let’s face it, the practice of law is difficult, often frustrating, work. Even those of us who love our jobs sometimes feel burned out and unsatisfied. This burnout can affect our physical and mental health as well as our work productivity. We long for something in our daily work that satisfies our soul. Mentorship can be that magic ticket.

We have long known that helping others makes us feel good, but research by the University of Wisconsin—Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs proves it. The research concluded that helping others makes us happier. When you do something good for someone else, the pleasure centers in your brain light up and endorphins are released that give you a sensation referred to as a ‘helper’s high.’ So, taking a little bit of time out of our daily life to help a new attorney find their way in the profession can counteract some stress and negativity that naturally accompanies law practice.”

I agree!

So today I’m here to share two mentoring opportunities.

Last month, the Vermont Bar Association announced the Vermont Mentor Advice Program (VMAP).  VMAP aims to pair “experienced Vermont lawyers with new lawyers practicing in Vermont and with lawyers newly-located in Vermont.” The VBA hopes that VMAP “will be a helpful way to welcome new lawyers practicing in Vermont to the Vermont legal community, and for experienced lawyers to be able to share their knowledge and experience with new Vermont lawyers.”  For more info, including answers to frequently asked questions and an application form, please go here.

In addition, the Vermont Judiciary administers a separate program.  The Rules of Admission to the Bar of the Vermont Supreme Court require newly admitted lawyers to complete a mentorship.  More information is available here.  To be added to the list of those willing to serve mentors in the admission program, please email Licensing Counsel Andy Strauss.

Note: the VBA program is NOT for mentees seeking to satisfy the admission requirement.

If I know Joan, she wouldn’t recommend one program over the other.  Rather, I expect that she’d suggest – as only Joan could “suggest” things – that you serve in BOTH.

For now, please consider one.

Here’s to being like Joan and improving our own well-being while helping others.

Previous Wellness Wednesday Posts

Wellness Wednesday: Mentoring

At last week’s YLD Thaw in Montreal, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on attorney wellness.  Three lawyers shared personal & moving stories.  One described how substance abuse almost kept him from entering the profession, while two recounted experiences that nearly drove them from the profession.  Experiences inextricably linked to stress, anxiety and depression.

The presentation was well-received.  Several lawyers have contacted me since to express an interest in “the next step.”  That is, it seems we’ve arrived at a point where everyone agrees that wellness is an issue that is impacting the profession.  Now, it’s time to move beyond raising awareness.  It’s time to provide lawyers with tools and techniques to achieve and maintain well-being and wellness.  I received a few great ideas from the lawyers who reached out.  Today I’ll focus on one: mentoring.

This morning, a young lawyer sent me an email in which she thanked me for incorporating wellness into so many of the CLEs that I present.  She wrote that it “is important that we make space within the profession to raise awareness of issues such as those the panel brought up.”

It’s what she wrote next that struck me:

  • “I hope in the future we can have further discussion on how to be the change we wish to see in the profession…managers and mentors, in my opinion, need to lead the charge.”

She’s right.  We who’ve been around must help younger lawyers manage the stress that the profession brings.  And there’s no better time to do so than now.

January is National Mentoring Month.  I’ve previously urged lawyers to consider serving as mentors for new attorneys.  Indeed, it’s a concept that can be traced back to one of the original expressions of our professional duties.

Of course, mentoring need not be formal.  It can be as simple as checking in with the younger lawyer in your firm. The lawyer who, like you once were, is overwhelmed and reluctant to ask for help.

Be the help that we want the profession to provide. There might be no more important form of mentoring.

For more, check out the mentoring resources that the American Inns of Court made available on its site.   And, for more general information on creating a workplace that values well-being & wellness, don’t forget two incredibly helpful resources:

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Wellness Wednesday: Mentor Someone

Last week, I used this space to celebrate Joan Wing.  The post generated a ton of feedback, mostly from lawyers grateful for Joan having mentored them.  The feedback got me thinking.

Then, I read this post in the ABA Journal.  The post references a survey of Florida’s young lawyers.  Per the survey, many of Florida’s young lawyers aren’t happy with their chosen profession.  The results got me thinking even more.

In my post on Joan, I suggested that we try to be more like her.  Mentoring a younger attorney presents an opportunity to do so.

I can hear you now: how’s that wellness?  The Vermonter that I am, I answer your question with my own: how’s it not?  Consider:

What if:

  • you showed a younger attorney that you cared enough to help her become a better attorney?
  • you helped a newer attorney avoid some of the mistakes you made as a younger attorney?
  • introduced an attorney who is brand new to Vermont to other attorneys who have established themselves here?
  • did nothing more than listen to a younger attorney who is frustrated, anxious and questioning whether he wants to continue in the profession?

It’d certainly help the younger attorney’s wellness, and likely would help yours as well.  Not only that, you might learn a thing or two from the younger attorney.  Umm, tech competence anyone?

And if that’s not enough, there’s CLE credit!

A few years ago, the Vermont Supreme Court adopted new Rules of Admission.  The rules did away with the “clerkship.”  Now, whether by exam or motion, new lawyers have one year to complete 15 hours of CLE in the basics of Vermont practice & procedure.  Additionally, attorneys admitted by exam have one year to complete a mentorship.  Mentors are eligible for up to 5 hours of CLE credit per reporting period.

We need mentors.  If interested, email me. I keep a list of those willing to serve.

Mentoring helps.  And, as Joan proved, helping is wellness.

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Resolve to be a mentor

In November 2017, I posted The 50 Original Rules.  It’s a post that briefly recaps the history of the conduct rules that apply to lawyers.

As best as I can tell, the earliest record of guidelines for attorney conduct in the United States is David Hoffman’s 1836 publication of his Fifty Resolutions in Regard to Professional Deportment.  My post on the original rules includes each of Hoffman’s 50 resolutions.

182 years later, it’s somewhat fascinating to me how many of Hoffman’s resolutions continue to resonate.  Many are embedded in the current rules and our collective professional conscience.

Given my fascination, I’ve resolved to blog about the continued relevance of Hoffman’s resolutions, taking them one at a time.  To date, I’ve posted:

Today, I’m focusing on #17, Hoffman’s resolution to mentor younger attorneys.  H resolved:

  • “Should I attain that eminent standing at the bar which gives authority to my opinions, I shall endeavor, in my intercourse with my junior brethren, to avoid the least display of it to their prejudice. I will strive never to forget the days of my youth, when I too was feeble in the law, and without standing. I will remember my then ambitious aspirations (though timid and modest) nearly blighted by the inconsiderate or rude and arrogant deportment of some of my seniors; and I will further remember that the vital spark of my early ambition might have been wholly extinguished, and my hopes forever ruined, had not my own resolutions, and a few generous acts of some others of my seniors, raised me from my depression. To my juniors, therefore, I shall ever be kind and encouraging; and never too proud to recognize distinctly that, on many occasions, it is quite probable their knowledge may be more accurate than my own, and that they, with their limited reading and experience, have seen the matter more soundly than I, with my much reading and long experience.”

What great advice.  Someone helped you when you first started. Pay it forward.

Indeed, there’s a relatively new opportunity to serve as a mentor. It’s an opportunity about which many Vermont lawyers might remain unaware.

In 2016, the Court approved a wholesale revision to the Rules of Admission.  The new rules replaced the old “clerkship” with two so-called “experiential requirements.”  Each appears in Rule 12.  Per the rule, lawyers admitted by examination have 1 year to complete:

  1. 15 hours of CLE on Vermont practice & procedure; and,
  2. a mentorship under the supervision of a Vermont lawyer or judge.

With respect to the mentorship, a new lawyer admitted by exam must:

  1. meet regularly with the mentor, no less than 10 times; and,
  2. complete at least 40 hours of activities from a list compiled by the CLE Board and approved by the Board of Bar Examiners.

The mentorship program list is here.

If you’d like to serve as a mentor, please contact me.  I’m going to try to maintain an informal list of mentors with whom to place new lawyers who contact me looking for one.

In addition, I know of many Vermont lawyers who are considering, or beginning to consider, a so-called “exit strategy.”  Mentoring a new lawyer can be a great way to groom a successor to take over your practice.

Finally, remember this: even if  not serving as a mentor for a new lawyer who is completing the formal mentorship requirement, there’s likely a less experienced lawyer who views you as a mentor.  As Hoffman resolved, treat that lawyer well.  There was a time when you were in that lawyer’s shoes and someone more experienced took the time to encourage you.

In short, someone made a difference in your career.  Make a difference in someone else’s.

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