TCBA Mentoring Initiative
At the Bar Leaders Conference in July, State Bar of Texas President Roland Johnson introduced Transition to Practice, a mentoring initiative for local bar associations. This yearlong program is designed to be easy to use, inexpensive, and readily adaptable to the needs of individual bar associations, law firms, or corporate or governmental law departments. It is designed to assist new lawyers as they transition from the study of law to the practice of law and to perpetuate the profession’s highest standards of competence, professionalism, service, and collegiality. TCBA President John Allen Chalk, Sr., and President-Elect W. Bradley Parker will work with Mentoring Program Chair Wendy Heckler and Chair-Elect Frank Jelinek to implement the program this bar year.
Newly licensed lawyers will be matched with more experienced lawyers who volunteer to participate in the project, and the pairs will attend CLE programs and meet in small groups or one-on-one. The program will guide new lawyers in many areas, including law-practice management, effective client representation, pro bono opportunities, and career development.
The State Bar has prepared a Transition to Practice resource guide that includes a proposed calendar, planning timeline, materials for recruiting and welcoming participants, mentoring agreement, program curriculum, evaluation form, and frequently asked questions. The program is designed to last twelve months, although mentors and the new lawyers with whom they are teamed may choose to continue to meet and share experiences. The program is targeted to lawyers in their first several years of licensure. Every other month, a group meeting of all program participants will take place with programming planned around a particular mentoring topic or topics. During alternate months, mentors and mentees will arrange to meet one-on-one.
Mentors are encouraged to make themselves available to the new lawyers with whom they are paired and to serve as sounding boards on issues that new practitioners commonly encounter. The program is suitable for lawyers in large or small firms or in the law departments of corporations or government entities. It is intended to complement, not replace, the mentoring projects of large law firms and legal departments.
Transition programs in other states have proved to be successful. In Georgia, roughly sixty percent of the new lawyers who participated in a pilot project reported that they were “very satisfied” with their legal careers. Further, a survey showed that the legal skills on which the transition program had the greatest impact were “the handling of ethical aspects of law practice and dealing with other lawyers.”
President Johnson believes that it is always challenging to make the transition from law school to practice, but it seems especially difficult during these changing times. “New lawyers are entering perhaps the most challenging economic environment in my thirty years as a lawyer,” he said. “Those who have been practicing for a few years not only face stiff competition, but also must grapple with a rapidly changing legal landscape as they navigate their life in the law. During times like these, the benefits of mentoring are invaluable. As a profession, we need to connect with young lawyers as early in their careers as possible, to ensure that they are prepared for the responsible practice of law and are committed to professionalism.”
The Tarrant County Bar Association is pleased to join the State Bar of Texas and other bar associations across the state as they help to guide the profession’s newest members to become better advocates for their clients and more engaged participants in the communities that we serve. To be part of this program, please contact TCBA Membership Director Cindy Rankin at (817) 338-4092 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for a packet or visit www.tarrantbar.org under “Membership” for the “Transition to Practice.”