South Carolina Lawyer
SC Lawyer, March 2008, #5.
The Case for Law Firm Mentoring Programs
South Carolina LawyerMarch 2008The Case for Law Firm Mentoring ProgramsBy John E. MontgomeryInterest in formal mentoring programs for new lawyers is increasing and with good reason. Mentoring is a cost effective technique for addressing some of the profession's most difficult challenges such as high associate attrition, improving professionalism and making associates more productive.
The Supreme Court of South Carolina in September 2006 ordered formal mentoring for a portion of new South Carolina Bar admittees. See order Re: South Carolina Lawyer Pilot Mentoring Program, 2006-09-14-01, (S.C.Sup.Ct. Sep. 14, 2006) available at www.sccourts.org/whatsnew/displaywhatsnew.cfm?indexID=349
. This pilot program, recommended by the Chief Justice's Commission on the Profession, is focused primarily on professionalism, ethics and law practice management, and will be evaluated this year. Our program is just one example of growing interest in formal mentoring. Georgia and Ohio earlier required mentoring for new lawyers. See STATE BAR OF GA., COMM. ON STANDARDS OF THE PROFESSION, Implementation Plan for a Mandatory Transition into Law Practice Program (Aug. 19, 2004) available at www.gabar.org/public/pdf/tilpp/7-F.pdf
; Supreme Court of Ohio, Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring Program, available at www.sconet.state.oh.us/mentoring/default
. Some state bars are exploring voluntary programs, and many law firms have also initiated mentoring for new associates. The program at Vinson and Elkins, the Texas-based national firm, is a good example of many comprehensive programs now in operation. The firm highlights mentoring on its Web site and in recruiting materials. See Vinson & Elkins, New Lawyer Mentoring Program Handbook,
What is mentoring, and what problems can it address? Mentoring is premised on a simple concept: senior professionals pass on their "practical wisdom" to the newly hired to smooth the transition into a new working environment. Its goal is to increase effectiveness and productivity as soon as possible. Mentoring is hardly new. The 19th century apprenticeship system of reading law in the office of an experienced practitioner was essentially a mentoring process.
Formal mentoring is widely and successfully used in business and higher education. Best...