Got an hour? Be a mentor. Local attorneys give law students a peek into their careers through the 60-Minute Mentoring Program

 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
 
So you like the idea of being a mentor, but aren’t quite sure where you’d find the time and don’t want a longtime commitment to someone whose company you may not even enjoy?
OK. But do you have an hour?
If so, you can be part of the 60 Minute Mentoring Program that allows Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School students the chance to meet with members of the Ingham County Bar Association for a brief, one-time mentoring session.
Lansing attorney Mary Chartier of ?Alane & Chartier, P.L.C.? is the ICBA laison to the program.
“Attorneys like participating in the 60 Minute Mentoring Program because there is a set amount of time that the attorney will spend as a mentor to the participant—60 minutes,” she said. “With everyone’s busy schedule, this is a nice way to help a new lawyer without the fear that the amount of time will be more than the attorney can manage.”
While Chartier recruits ICBA members who are willing to spend an hour with a law student on the topic of professionalism, who then respond with their availability. WMU Cooley students then sign up for the available time slots, and arrange to meet the attorneys at their offices.
The students are primed on how to prepare questions and make the most of the hour, and taught how to research the discipline background of the attorney they’ll be visiting.
By Jo Mathis
Legal News
 
So you like the idea of being a mentor, but aren’t quite sure where you’d find the time and don’t want a longtime commitment to someone whose company you may not even enjoy?
OK. But do you have an hour?
If so, you can be part of the 60 Minute Mentoring Program that allows Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School students the chance to meet with members of the Ingham County Bar Association for a brief, one-time mentoring session.
Lansing attorney Mary Chartier of ?Alane & Chartier, P.L.C.? is the ICBA laison to the program.
“Attorneys like participating in the 60 Minute Mentoring Program because there is a set amount of time that the attorney will spend as a mentor to the participant—60 minutes,” she said. “With everyone’s busy schedule, this is a nice way to help a new lawyer without the fear that the amount of time will be more than the attorney can manage.”
While Chartier recruits ICBA members who are willing to spend an hour with a law student on the topic of professionalism, who then respond with their availability. WMU Cooley students then sign up for the available time slots, and arrange to meet the attorneys at their offices.
The students are primed on how to prepare questions and make the most of the hour, and taught how to research the discipline background of the attorney they’ll be visiting.
Amy Timmer, associate dean of Students and Professionalism at WMU/Cooley, says that when students hear from practicing attorneys that professionalism and ethics matter, they are much more likely to believe it than if they just hear the words at an orientation. Those stories help students develop their own codes of ethics, she said.
Topics naturally evolve into the business aspect of practicing law.
“It’s more than ethics, but ethics generally is the most interesting part of the discussion,” said Timmer. “We want people to feel free to develop a relationship.”
“In many cases, they have their one-hour session; they learn something about professionalism and ethics and why it really matters and they go on about their business,” But we’ve also been delighted to discover that many, many pairs say, `Let’s get together again’ and then they have, I think, a more legitimate sort of mentoring relationship—one that started from knowing each other first, and then discovering they had some things in common that they enjoyed about each other. We don’t force anybody into that, but we’re delighted when it happens naturally from a one-hour get-together.”
Matt Cristiano was a Cooley student when the 60 Minute Mentoring program began.
“I would emphatically recommend this to current law students and young practicing attorneys,” said Cristiano, who graduated in January 2013, and is now the chief compliance officer for a medical equipment company in San Diego. “Doing this while in law school made it easier for me to talk to other attorneys at local bar associations both in Michigan, and in San Diego. It allowed me to both network and be mentored all in the same breath.”
In fact, he’s such a big believer in mentoring that he and Timmer co-authored a booklet published in 2012 titled, “Maximizing Relationships To Become A Successful Lawyer: Innovative Mentoring For Lawyers And Law Students.”  
He said as a law student he embraced the idea of episodic mentoring whenever he had the opportunity, and would work it into every day conversations.
“What all of these little mentoring sessions did was allow me to feel more comfortable talking to people, and to gain valuable insight that I might not otherwise have gotten,” he said. “The 60 minute sessions were great, but when I focused my time on having my "go to questions" and talking to as many people as I could, the whole world was open to me for mentoring.” 
It’s natural for the discussion to evolve from ethics and professionalism to career, Timmer said.
Chartier said the students come in with prepared questions about professionalism and ethics, and the sessions tend to naturally evolve into the nitty-gritty of the daily life of an attorney.  Students who plan to hang their own shingle need a lot of mentoring, as do those attorneys who are getting into an area of law unfamiliar to them, said Chartier, noting the huge difference between state and federal criminal defense.
Chartier, who graduated from Cooley 13 years ago, said that mentoring was more informal back then, and she found excellent mentors in professors Ron Bretz and John Nussbaumer, now the associate dean of the Auburn Hills campus.
By their third year, students have enough mentoring experience to naturally create their own mentoring episodes with attorneys around the country, whether by e-mail or phone.
“What students find is that they build a network of attorneys whom they’re comfortable reaching out to for perhaps other things,” said Timmer. “If I mentor with you two or three times, I might say, `Can I stay in touch with you about my job hunt? Do you feel like you know me well enough to write me a letter of recommendation?’ So it kind of evolves into networking, but in a way where the attorney has the chance to know the student a little bit.”
For information on mentoring a student, or if you are an attorney or law student interested in being mentored, call 517-371-5140 ext 2842.
 

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