In 2006, the late Joe Melli, then-Chair of the Senior Lawyers Section, and Josh Kindkeppel, then Chair of the New Lawyers Section, joined forces to create the Dane County Mentorship Program. The Mentorship Program launched a pilot program in the fall of 2007 matching 10 mentees with 10 mentors. The Program was a success and was expanded in subsequent years. The concept of the Program is simple: match new attorneys with seasoned veterans based on an area of practice/interest. The Program strives to establish meaningful relationships between mentors and mentees and to encourage a greater appreciation for the law and the importance of civility in everyday legal practice. Attorneys in their first 5 years of practice qualify to participate as mentees. Practicing attorneys with more than 10 years of practice qualify to participate as mentors.
Mentees provide the Program with their area(s) of practice/interest and the Program seeks out and matches them with mentors with the same areas of practice/interest.The program year runs from September through June, and a minimum of one meeting a month between mentors and mentees is required. It is suggested that mentors invite the mentee to depositions, hearings, bar meetings and trials to enhance the opportunity of the mentee to observe the reality of the practice of law in Dane County. Additionally, the Program hosts an orientation and social hour at the start of the program year and three luncheons throughout the rest of the program year for all the mentees and mentors.
The luncheons feature a speaker on a topic of interest for CLE credit, and lunch is provided by the DCBA. Among the matters to be discussed between mentors and mentees are ethics, professionalism, legal etiquette, civility, relationships with clients and other attorneys, the judiciary and the public, professional work habits, organizational skills and practice management, economics of practicing law, and responsibility and opportunities for pro bono work, bar activities, and community service.
The mentoring relationship is to foster the development of the mentee's practical skills, increase his or her knowledge of legal customs and create a sense of pride and integrity. The mentoring relationship should improve legal ability and professional judgment and should impart the use of best practices and highest ideals in the practice of law.
A successful relationship of any kind requires both parties to want the relationship to work. This is especially true in a mentoring situation where mentor and mentee can develop a satisfactory association where both are committed to meeting their responsibilities. By allowing each other the freedom to openly discuss and work on professional issues, without censure and on a regular basis, the mentee and mentor are well on their way to an enjoyable, stimulating and rewarding experience. For additional information, contact one of the following:
Jack Sweeney, Section Co-Chair
Wisconsin Department of Justice