by Robert W. Berbenich
The most important resource I found in transitioning from law school to the practice of law as a young attorney was the support and guidance of more experienced lawyers. By the time I passed the bar exam and was admitted as an attorney, I possessed a great deal of general knowledge and skills, but I obviously did not have all the practical skills and real-world knowledge necessary to succeed. The mentor-mentee relationships I have developed over the course of my short career have contributed greatly to my overall professional development. My hope in this brief article is to stress that having mentors is of paramount importance -- and that as members of the NYSBA, we have access to plenty of resources that can help us find and nurture such relationships.
From my own experience, one piece of advice I can give is to foster and develop relationships with the people around you, because you never know when you'll meet someone who may add greatly to your professional life. There is one gentleman who played a particularly profound impact in shaping my career early on, and now that I think back, I met him through just a chance encounter. I am fortunate, though, to have worked with a number of knowledgeable and experienced men and women who always made themselves available, gave me sound advice, and answered more than a handful of questions for me about the day-to-day practice of law.
In terms of establishing mentor-mentee relationships, and the impact these relationships can have on our development as lawyers, there are a number of great articles talking about the impact mentorship can have on young attorneys. For example, in "Mentoring Helps Attorneys at all Levels Advance their Careers," Alex Vorro writes eloquently about the impact mentorship can have on the careers of both young and more experienced attorneys and the rewarding relationships that result from the process. Further, in "Mentoring: It's a Team Sport," Sarah Petersen writes about how mentors and mentees come together, the overall development of the relationships, the importance of holding each other accountable, and the potential of an overall team approach to mentorship. These two articles are only a small sampling of the information available on the benefits of mentorship and how to go about making those lasting connections.
Additionally, many NYSBA sections have their own mentorship programs that will help you form relationships and develop your skills within a particular practice area. For example, the General Practice Section launched an innovative new mentoring program called GP Law Connect. The Labor and Employment Law Section also maintains its own mentoring program and provides great information about how to get involved. The Commercial and Federal Litigation Section maintains a mentorship program that was inaugurated in 2010 and continues to grow and develop. Spend some time on the NYSBA website and investigate some of the many different sections and practice areas you may be interested in, and you'll find that getting involved with an established mentorship program in your practice area is easier than you think.
While we take the time to develop these personal mentor-mentee relationships, we can all find virtual mentorship and guidance at the click of a mouse. We all have access to an ever-expanding online database of CLE programs, legal seminars, podcasts, and a variety of other recourses as well. NYSBA, for example, has a vast online library of video and audio CLE programs available in many different practice areas. Thus, while many of us might not yet have active mentor-mentee relationships established, in the meantime we all do have the resources available to find great information from knowledgeable people inside the legal community. Plus, the more education we get under our belts, the more attractive we will be as young lawyers to potential mentors.
In addition to seeking out mentors of our own, we can also act as mentors ourselves to the many law students eager to learn more about what awaits them after law school. Our own Young Lawyers Section of the NYSBA has an established relationship with Cardozo Law School, where our members are paired with law students to help offer them advice and guidance while also introducing them to NYSBA. The Young Lawyers Section is also looking to take the success we have had at Cardozo and spread the program to other schools as well. For more information about how you can get involved, please contact Erica Hines at email@example.com.
The bottom line is this: None of us can make it completely on our own. Establishing a career as a young attorney -- especially a career that is set up for long-term success -- requires the support and know-how that only a veteran can provide. Hopefully some of the resources listed above will help you continue to develop beneficial mentor-mentee relationships and inspire you to get involved with the Young Lawyers Section's mentorship program, where you can return the favor and help mentor law students looking to establish mentor-mentee relationships of their own.
Robert W. Berbenich, an associate in Goldberg Segalla's Garden City office, practices civil litigation with a focus on general liability matters, including those involving construction, personal injury, premises liability, and transportation litigation. Robert's previous experience includes working in a civil litigation law firm specializing in high-exposure, multimillion-dollar catastrophic accident cases. There, he was involved in all aspects of litigation, from intake through verdict and appeal. Robert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.