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Making a difference...

By Tricia M. Derr

I vividly recall my first trial.  Armed with my trial advocacy textbooks from law school, I arrived at the courthouse bright and early.  I was ready to go.  I was organizing my sticky notes and highlighters when I felt a tap on my shoulder. 

"You're in my seat," said opposing counsel. 

"Nice try," I thought.  There was no way that I was going to be bullied. 

Using my best lawyer voice, I defended my claim.  "Sorry," I huffed, "I got here first."

Opposing counsel politely explained (and I learned for the first time) that the plaintiff gets to sit closest to the jury.  Woops.    

I recall another time when I inadvertently missed a discovery deadline.  After consulting my supervisor, I called opposing counsel and explained my error.  "No worries," he said "just get it to me when you can."  I thanked him profusely for his generosity.  In response, he said "you can thank me by remembering this when another lawyer calls you needing a favor."  To this day, I live by my promise to him.  I've even borrowed his line a few times.    

Over the first several years of practice, I made mistakes.  Luckily, they were harmless (except to my ego).  But what really sticks out in my mind is the gentle guidance, patience and tolerance offered by my colleagues, various judges, opposing counsel, courtroom clerks and even the bailiffs at the courthouse.  Of course, not everyone was kind all of the time; but I encountered much more good than bad.  Looking back, I feel a deep sense of appreciation for those who cared enough to take the time to teach me the unwritten rules of law and professionalism.  Unfortunately, I fear that many of our new lawyers are not having the experience.

From 1993 to 2013, the MCB has more than doubled in size.  Coupled with size, electronic communications have made anonymity for lawyers the "new normal."  Job supply is shadowed by job demand; and resources for recent law graduates are strained.  Our mentoring resources -- especially in terms of volunteer mentors -- are suffering. 

I recently attended a meeting of the Linking Lawyers leadership, a subcommittee of the MCB's Professionalism, Lawyer Life and Culture Committee.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this program, Linking Lawyers is a formal mentoring program designed to match mentees and mentors based on self-identified preferences including race and/or gender, years and areas of practice, and networking expectations.  While Linking Lawyers strives to provide mentorship for attorneys at all levels, our recent graduates are by far the most prominent group of attorneys seeking mentors.  Linking Lawyers Subcommittee members have worked relentlessly to recruit mentors.  Despite their persistence, Linking Lawyers is now turning away mentees for lack of mentor volunteer support. 

So, getting to the point, can you help?  While I appreciate that artificial matchmaking is not as natural as traditional mentoring, it is the only resource for many of our new lawyers.  Not every match is perfect; and managing expectations can be challenging.  However, these are the relationships that preserve our community; and ultimately, the integrity of our profession. 

If I've succeeded in convincing you to volunteer, please visit www.MeckBar.org to fill out a mentor form or contact the Linking Lawyers Co-Chairs Hon. Charles "Casey" M. Viser at casey.viser@nccourts.org, David M. Bishop at dbishop@bdj-law.com or MCB Assistant Executive Director Maya Madura Engle at mengle@meckbar.org or 704/375-8624 to volunteer.  It makes a difference! 

 


 

 

 
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1-8-15 Lawyers' Luncheon Series - Cyber Security for Attorneys: Preventing Cyber Theft
Join your colleagues at a regular monthly luncheon to eat, socialize and learn from an FBI representative about ways to protect against cyber theft. NEW LOCATION: Bar & Foundation Center, 12:15 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.

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Free networking event and lunch to connect informally with peers and discuss the history of women practicing law in Mecklenburg County and look at current state of affairs for women in the legal field. Register by 1/19/15.

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The Bar Leadership Dinner is a celebration of leadership and service provided by Mecklenburg County Bar members & Mecklenburg Bar Foundation supporters.

 

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