For a new attorney, fresh out of law school and deep in debt, the legal job market is daunting. Hiring has been mostly stagnant since the recession, leaving more lawyers than jobs. We're seeing more and more lawyers turning to solo practice. If you thought starting a new career was hard, try doing it on your own - it's not easy.
Fortunately, there are many generous people in the industry willing to offer advice, guidance and direction. The trick is finding them. As a solo practitioner or those still looking for a job, this can seem like a big ask. The KCBA Young Lawyers Division is working on closing the gap in this equation through reviving the mentor program and hosting numerous formal and informal networking events.
This commitment to encouraging and promoting the importance of mentorship is highlighted by the Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award presented at the annual YLD Winter Soiree. This year's event, held February 5, honored 11 finalists each of whom made an impact on the young lawyers who nominated them. These mentors had an open-door policy, were a steadfast resource, were consistently available, pushed their mentees, and inspired them.
One mentee described a time when Court of Appeals Judge Stephen J. Dwyer handed back an edited draft with enough red ink "to make a first-year English major blush." Judge Dwyer turned it into a pivotal learning experience, instead of leaving the mentee to become dejected and frustrated, he guided the mentee and helped him improve.
Another finalist, Stella Pitts, was so dedicated to her paralegal that Pitts became a Rule 6 mentor to help her mentee achieve her goal of becoming a lawyer.
Ultimately, the YLD selected two winners of the Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award.
- Maggie Diefenbach, director, Betts Patterson & Mines, was chosen for her dedication and genuine passion to help her associates succeed, which was reiterated by four different mentees.
- Jesse O. Franklin IV, partner, K&L Gates, who was nominated by seven associates. All described different instances when Franklin had encouraged them to take on real responsibility and was there to help them through any challenging issue.
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