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We live in a world where every profession comes with it a lot of competition. The legal field is no exemption – when it comes to practicing law, graduating and passing the bar is not enough these days. Lawyers in Birmingham are continuously learning to be better at their craft and this usually means joining associations, passing extra certifications, and holding notable positions. Regardless of whether you work for the state, or for criminal defense, all 

Junior lawyers, in particular, need a lot of guidance to quickly learn the ropes, or else they will get left behind. Fortunately, even if the competition can get cutthroat at times, the industry isn’t merciless. There are a lot of ways for older and more seasoned attorneys to assist newer ones and one of those ways is entering a mentoring program.

What is a Lawyer Mentor?

A lawyer mentor, or a legal mentor is usually a veteran in the legal field tasked to teach and guide a junior lawyer or law student under a legal mentorship program. The scope of this mentorship program usually goes beyond just understanding the laws and putting them into practice. The mentoring program also imparts important values, advice, and important learnings to the mentee.

Because the mentoring program often shapes the way a law student or junior lawyer grows in the legal profession, choosing the right mentor becomes all the more important. The choice of lawyer mentor often decides what kind of lawyer you will be in the years to come. Your mentor will ease your transition into practice so you feel confident once you engage in solo legal work.

Do You Really Need Mentoring Program?

Is a mentoring program really necessary? In other industries, it is possible to accumulate experience and skills on your own without needing someone else’s guidance. Even in the legal field, one could technically excel at their respective practice after years of taking on cases and appearing in court. However, let’s remember that the law has a big impact on people’s lives.

If you work in manufacturing and you produce a defective product, it means a waste of resources and a possible deduction. However, once you throw away that defective product, life goes on and you can simply continue making more.

Mistakes in the legal field are a matter of life or death. This is also the reason why doctors have to go through a similar mentorship program in hospitals. You can’t simply push doctors to perform surgery on their own fresh out of med school. In the same manner, it’s not wise to let lawyers who were college students merely months ago handle a case on their own.

A mistake in handling cases can mean the imprisonment of an innocent man. It could mean the acquittal of a criminal, the separation of a family, and the destruction of a person’s life. This is why a mentoring program was put in place for lawyers. No matter how good you were in law school, it’s a different world once you’re in the courtroom.

Having a mentor program allows you to see the legal world in practice settings. It’s like having training wheels on your bike. It’s an opportunity to practice skills without putting anyone’s life in jeopardy. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’ll always be the assistant to a senior lawyer. Gradually, once you feel comfortable in practice settings, you’ll transition into solo work.

Choosing A Mentor Lawyer

In many cases, you don’t get to choose who becomes your mentor. For example, law firms usually have a mentoring program set for junior lawyers, where they pair them up with their more experienced, seasoned attorneys. However, if you aren’t given the opportunity to directly train against someone, it’s still important to find a mentoring program when you’re starting out.

If the choice is up to you, here are some things you need to consider when searching for a lawyer mentor:

Advocacies

As much as people want to paint lawyers as heartless people who are simply in it for the money, most law students developed a passion for law because of something they want to fight for. We’ve heard of stories of seasoned attorneys who came from abusive families who went into law to fight for women’s rights or those who came from poor families who became public defenders for the poor.

Ronnie Rice is not only a lawyer practicing in Birmingham, but he is also the man behind 100 Black Men of Metro Birmingham, a mentoring program in Birmingham that seeks out college students who want to be mentored in law. The mentoring program believes not only in equality among all men, but in starting them early. The mentoring program is not exclusive to people with a law degree – the program is open to all teens and students who want to be leaders and want to make the world a better place.

When searching for a mentoring program, it’s important that your values align with theirs. While it is true that the mentoring program will eventually shape you into the type of lawyer you want to be, there’s nothing wrong with choosing the path you want to take in life.

Experience and Skill

Of course, the whole point of a mentoring program is to learn the ropes of the industry without making costly mistakes. This is why you must look for a mentor who is considered a veteran in the field. When it comes to experience, don’t just go with anyone who’s been practicing law for many years.

Think about what you want to specialize in. Do you want to become a prosecutor, or do you want to go into criminal defense? Do you want to focus on personal injury cases, or do you want to specialize in family court? Think about the path that you want to take down the line and look for a mentor who is a veteran in that field.

Rapport and Communication

You’ll be spending a lot of time with your lawyer mentor, so your relationship skills will be put to the test. A mentor-mentee relationship can come in many forms – they can feel like a friend, or even a father figure to you, as long as you respect professional boundaries. You can’t get the full benefits of your mentor relationships if you dislike the person teaching you, and you won’t get value out of the mentorship program if you feel awkward towards them.

In mentor relationships, the mentor will always be someone above the mentee not only in terms of tenure but also in stature and demeanor. However, if the mentee is afraid or intimidated by their mentor, they’ll be afraid to ask questions and will hesitate to clarify things if they’re confused. Mentor relationships should have the right amount of respect, with the mentee still able to freely express themselves.

Trust

Do you trust your mentor’s ethical practices when they go about their case? You can only learn from your mentoring program if you have full trust in your mentor. If you have doubts about how they do things or feel like their ethical practices are not in line with yours, you won’t take to heart whatever they say to you. This is a common problem with mentoring programs in the criminal defense field. You may not always agree with how your mentor thinks, but you always have to trust in their decisions.

Diversity

While it is important to establish rapport with your mentor so you can be comfortable with them, it’s also a good idea to find a mentoring program that is outside your comfort zone. You may have an idea of what your ideal mentor looks like, but don’t be limited when it comes to your options, especially if your standards have nothing to do with skill and experience. For example, you may not feel comfortable working with a mentor of the opposite sex; however, if you have the opportunity to learn more from them specifically because they have a different view of things because of their gender, it might be a good idea to explore it.

The Best Places To Find A Birmingham Mentoring Program

Where can you find senior attorneys in Birmingham? Fortunately, the city is brimming with opportunities for students and junior lawyers alike.

College Mentoring Program

Contrary to popular belief, a mentoring program isn’t limited to new lawyers. You can start on your mentorship program even while in school. A lot of successful attorneys started their mentoring program in college, which ultimately solidified their determination to study law. Schools like the University Of Alabama School Of Law have mentoring program opportunities that aim to get future lawyers started on the right foot. Aside from the University of Alabama School of Law, other educational institutions are now introducing mentorship programs for all their students.

Prospective mentors for collegiate programs include your adjunct professor or a club facilitator. Some colleges have an Alumni-Student Mentoring Program, where the mentors are previous students of that college who have gone on to become senior attorneys. Ask around if your college has a mentoring program available specifically for those who want to pursue law in the future.

Law Firm Mentoring Program

Most law firms in the Birmingham area have a mentoring program for new lawyers. Usually, a mentoring program is done to embed the law firm’s values and policies to new lawyers. There is a lot at stake for the law firm, so they have a mentoring program in place to ensure that the firm’s standards are upheld. If your law firm has a mentorship program available, there is no reason for you not to take advantage of it to the fullest.

Professional Law Associations

Professional law associations such as the American Bar Association, and the more local Birmingham Bar Association have mentoring programs in place to get new lawyers started on the right foot. The Birmingham Bar Association Mentoring Program usually holds networking events and conferences where newer lawyers can mingle with veterans in an effort to establish mentor-mentee bonds. 

Benefits of Entering A Mentoring Program

If you still feel like a mentoring program is not for you, here are some of the benefits that you can get from it:

Real-World Insight

Even if you excelled in law school, remember that majority of it was purely theoretical. While law school entails a lot of memorization, actually taking on cases requires more than just knowing what laws are applicable to your case. A mentoring program can give you real-world insight that’s beyond memorization. In the courtroom, it’s not just about knowing the law. Every case is a series of judgment calls for a lawyer. The program allows you to practice skills needed to become a great lawyer.

Expanding Your Network

When you work under a mentoring program, you will be your mentor’s shadow at all times. This means that you’ll be there when they meet clients, talk to other lawyers, and talk to other people in the industry. This is your gateway into knowing who is who, and what they are like without actually speaking to them. Your mentoring program will also help you become a familiar face among people who could be your future clients, partners, and peers.

Valuable Professional Advice

As stated early, the real world is a lot different than what you read about in books. Nothing is ever black and white when it comes to the law, so you will encounter a lot of situations where the answer isn’t clear and there is no single best option to choose. While this concept may be boggling to newcomers, veterans are accustomed to making judgment calls and decisions that aren’t rooted in right versus wrong. This is especially true for fields like criminal defense, where laws and morality often collide.

Support System

A mentoring program is a great way to develop your support system, which you will definitely need in the future. Law is a harsh and unforgiving field and if you were thrown into it without any guidance, it can be stressful and frustrating. A mentoring program can make the transition into practice smoother so new lawyers aren’t out fending for themselves.

Loyalty

Law firms often have a mentoring program in place because the relationship is beneficial for both parties. Mentees get the wisdom and insight they need from their mentor, while the association that initiates the mentoring program is often rewarded with loyalty. New lawyers who undergo their mentoring program often become more loyal to the company and follow its standards to the fullest.

Resources For Lawyer Apprentices in Birmingham

If you’re still looking for a mentoring program, you can contact any of these organizations for more information:

Mid-South Super Lawyers

Mid-South Super Lawyers is a listing of top lawyers in the Mid-South area. If you’re looking for a mentoring program with a particular specialization, here is a great place to start looking. You can see a description of each lawyer, as well as their achievements. The database contains lawyers coming from different backgrounds and levels of experience.

American Bar Association

The biggest voluntary association of lawyers in the country. The American Bar Association is divided into several sub-associations, each with its old mentoring program. Check out their website to see if they have a mentoring program close to your area. They also have programs that cater to particular advocacies, such as the ABA Mentoring Program for Lawyers with Disabilities, a mentoring program for students and lawyers with disabilities.

National Legal Mentoring Consortium

The National Legal Mentoring Consortium is a website that features all available mentoring programs in the country. This is a great place to look at if you’re looking for a mentoring program that focuses on certain advocacies.

American Society of International Law Women in International Law Mentoring Program

A mentoring program that caters to female lawyers, the ASIL mentoring program aims to guide female law students and lawyers alike in the study of international law. the program is also accepting mentor applications from seasoned lawyers with various levels of experience.

When Insurance Companies Know Your Reputation, it Shows in Your Recoveries. 

Over $30 million dollars
in verdicts and settlements recovered for my clients

 

$10.9 Million
in Total Settlements in 2020

 

$1.2 Million
in Referral Fees in 2020

 

2018
Birmingham Business Journal Women to Watch

 

2011-2020
Alabama Super Lawyers Rising Stars
When Insurance Companies Know Your Reputation, it Shows in Your Recoveries.
Over $30 million dollars
in verdicts and settlements recovered for my clients
$10.9 Million
in Total Settlements in 2020
$1.2 Million
in Referral Fees in 2020
2018
Birmingham Business Journal Women to Watch
2011-2020
Alabama Super Lawyers Rising Stars