Mentoring Matters: The Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship Programs of The Florida Bar and Its Sections.

Author:Dorris, Mariane L.
Position:Special Section: Diversity & Inclusion

By all accounts, the legal profession is facing a crisis: "Too many great minds are leaving the profession.... Everyone needs to care about that--not just women, not just men." (1) Although women comprise 45 percent of associates, they only account for 19 percent of equity partners in private law firms. (2) Gender inequity is a "multifaceted problem which has its roots in implicitly held, even if explicitly disavowed, beliefs about sex differences, beliefs whose consequences are played out daily. Gender schemas cannot be changed over the short run. But their mode of action and their deleterious results can be understood and countered." (3) More than 30 years ago, the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Women in the Profession concluded that the lack of mentoring opportunities and relationships was just one of the ways in which law firms discriminated against women. (4) Due to this lack of mentoring opportunities, women were excluded from those relationships among law firm members that are critical to success and the ultimate attainment of partnership. Since that time, mentoring has been well documented as an effective tool that can help women advance within organizations. (5) Moreover, many women who have achieved a high level of success in organizations frequently mention the presence of a mentor as one of the reasons for their success. (6)

Mentoring relationships are intended to facilitate the personal and professional development of the less experienced individual. (7) Mentors are believed to provide two distinctive forms of mentoring functions: career development and psychosocial support. (8) Career development refers to actions that advance the mentee within the organization, such as coaching, sponsorship, exposure, protection, and teaching the norms and practices of the institution. (9) Psychosocial support refers to the interpersonal aspects of the mentoring relationship, such as counseling, friendship, acceptance, and role modeling behaviors. (10) Mentoring is as critical to advancement in law as it is in any other profession.

Leadership Academy

In 2013, Eugene Pettis, The Florida Bar's first African-American president, created the Wm. Reece Smith, Jr. Leadership Academy, named after the late chair emeritus of Carlton Fields, with its aim to train future leaders of The Florida Bar and the legal profession. Since 2013, the Leadership Academy has had more than 200 graduates (academy fellows). Incoming classes are 74 percent...

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