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From the President

Mentoring matters

By Craig Holden
President, the State Bar of California

Craig HoldenHaving guidance from mentors can make a huge difference in starting a young attorney’s career off on the right foot. I know this from personal experience, having had the benefit of mentors myself.

That’s one reason I appointed a task force to explore the creation of new mentoring opportunities for California attorneys. The task force was created in September 2014 and chaired by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marguerite Downing. Judge Downing is joined by 15 attorney and non-attorney task force members with backgrounds in mentoring, including the California Young Lawyers Association Chairwoman Emily Aldrich.

The task force has recommended the creation of a statewide Attorney Mentoring Program (AMP). We’re asking for your input on the proposal by the middle of September. Starting as a pilot with 100 mentees, it’s envisioned that the program would eventually grow and become mandatory for new lawyers statewide. The program would help ease the transition from law school to legal practice.

The Georgia State Bar started a mandatory mentoring program in 2008, and it’s been replicated by other states. The task force studied that program model and others in developing its proposed program. Although ideally the program would provide one mentor for every mentee, the task force recognizes that this may not be possible in a state the size of California. The State Bar registers about 4,000 new lawyers every year who are spread over a large geographic area. That’s where technology and social media can play a role, as it has with the 10-minute Mentor videos created by the CYLA.

The mentoring task force spent five months canvassing existing programs, developing best practices and identifying potential funding sources. I’d like to thank Judge Downing and the task force members for all of their hard work. I’m excited about the prospect of a statewide mentoring program, especially since a similar program developed by the South Carolina Bar has shown early promise in reducing the number of lawyers who were disbarred or suspended for misconduct early in their careers.

Notably, the mentoring task force is part of an ongoing commitment by the State Bar to ensure that attorneys have the tools they need to succeed. I continue to posit that the State Bar, in fulfilling its mission, should be proactive in helping lawyers become better lawyers. Another recent example of this proactive effort was the Client Trust Account survey that was launched June 1 to the entire State Bar membership. The survey was designed to raise awareness of the rules governing trust accounting. For many years, the bar has also maintained an Ethics Hotline to assist attorneys in meeting their ethical obligations. The number is 800-238-4427 (or 415-538-2150 for callers outside California).

I look forward to receiving your input on the proposed mentoring program and hope that you will also consider devoting some of your time to mentoring the next generation of legal professionals.