While we knew more black letter law than ever at that point, we knew little about how to act effectively as a lawyer. We all relied upon older lawyers to guide us. Looking back, I am not so sure that the old craft guild model of apprenticing is not appropriate. Regardless, each of us has a duty to train, and to train well.
Look at the practical side of this. You will be held responsible by any court or bar for the failure to supervise an associate lawyer when they err. See Model Rules of Prof’l Conduct 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3. The world has changed and clients will not pay us to train our lawyers. Some even restrict and prohibit use of first-year lawyers on their files. Most guidelines in place prohibit two lawyers at proceedings. So, how do they ever learn?
I suggest the practical way to avoid claims from acts or omissions of new lawyers is to invest your time in their education. Some firms run training programs on a regular weekly basis. Others give budgeted hours for associates for “apprenticing” (i.e., 300 non-billable for 1st, 200 for 2nd, and 100 for 3rd-year associates as a credit toward their annual budget). Both methods are made known to clients so they know they are not being charged for training.
Even if your firm cannot do that, take on the task as a routine part of lawyer business in your office. The better they learn sooner, the better lawyer they will be for your professional business. So, be a mentor like the American Inns of Court strive to accomplish, in an organized fashion. Teaching competence, confidentiality, professionalism, diligence and service will save your firm time and resources later. You also have the chance to know a colleague and to determine early on if they have what it takes to be your partner.
In teaching hospitals and in medical offices, we see young doctors trailing and watching while “shadowing”. The law profession does not work well for that. Watching me work on a computer screen or taking calls will not do much.
But think about grabbing a clerk or a newbie and take them to a hearing, deposition, or some proceeding. Think socially also (the “crème de mentor” approach) and interact with them at outings or social occasions. It means a lot to a young lawyer and I do remember that kindness many years later. At the Waterford Crystal plant in Ireland, it may take 40 years to become a master cutter. We do not have to do that, but invest your time as a mentor to teach them that ethics and good lawyering means doing the right thing when no one is watching. It will make money for your law firm in the long run.
See for information:
Associate Mentoring is Good for Law Firm Profitability
March 1, 2013
By Jacqueline V. Guynn
The Importance of Mentoring
By Ginger Grant, Canadian Bar Association
Mentoring Helps Attorneys at All Levels Advance Their Careers
Programs Allow Seasoned Lawyers to Impart Wisdom to the Next Generation
By Alex Vorro, Inside Counsel Magazine
March 27, 2012
Mentoring: Its Time Has Come—Again
By Dan Pinnington