If the following description fits you, listen up: As a young attorney, someone gave you a chance. Someone gave you a job and showed you how to practice law.
Have you considered repaying that favor by hiring a young attorney and showing him or her what you know? The economy has improved, your retirement account has recovered, you have more work than you can handle, and you need assistance. Smart young lawyers out there are looking for a job, so this is a win-win situation.
At the recent Bar and Bench Conference, Judge J. B. Bennett felt this point was so important that he announced it from the podium not once but twice. His message was simple and direct, as most good messages are: it is high time to pay it forward. I spoke to him shortly thereafter, and here is what he had to say:
“During the Bar and Bench Conference, I said to the older attorneys, ‘Help a young lawyer, because for many of you, someone gave you a chance, and someone mentored you, trained you, and gave you the opportunity. Now is the time for you to pay that forward.’”
“The economy is getting better, so opportunities will be there to expand the personnel you have. There have been many times in our economic cycle when times have not been great, but now they’re not bad, and you need to be willing to hire good people. That is important for our current environment, this being 2015.
“Looking back on my situation, I was extremely lucky to not only land a job with a very good law firm – Spears, Moore, Rebman and Williams – but to also be mentored by several different partners – mainly by Blake Moore but also by ... Judge Marie Williams, as well as many others. I wouldn’t want to try to name them all because I would forget some names, and I wouldn’t want to do that.
“The mentoring process was very important to me as a young lawyer. It gave me the opportunity, on the job, to learn from capable practitioners. I was then allowed to expand my responsibilities as I was ready to do them, which is also an important part of mentoring.
“It is extremely important not only to mentor associates but also to allow those associates to take on more responsibility as they’re ready to do so.”
I asked Judge Bennett, “Not to put down mentoring over the phone and by giving advice, but would you agree that the best way to mentor a young lawyer is by hiring them and training them on the job?”
“There’s nothing wrong with trying to mentor someone who is in a different environment,” Judge Bennett said, “but the better and more practical way to do that is to hire that person.”
Last month, I participated in the Tennessee Supreme Court swearing-in ceremony. One managing partner of a large Nashville firm swore in nine new attorneys, and several other firms introduced multiple new hires to the Court. The economy is growing, and law firms are hiring again. The Supreme Court justices commented on this more than once.
Whether you operate a large office or a small one, you likely need help. Years ago, someone gave you a chance, and you did them proud. Consider hiring a young lawyer and teaching him or her everything you know. You will benefit, the attorney will benefit, and the bar as a whole will improve because your pool of knowledge and experience will be put to greater work, and passed on to the next generation.
P.S. The Bar and Bench Conference held last month was, to the best of our knowledge, the most-attended CLE event in the Chattanooga Bar Association’s history (over 170 attorneys participated). A roster of pre-selected questions was presented and discussed, and a lot of information was covered in three hours’ time. Immediate Past President Tim Mickel chaired the event, assisted by the Judicial Relations Committee of the CBA. Thanks to everyone involved in making this an unprecedented success.