October is Pro Bono Month, and the Massachusetts Bar Association is proud to shine a spotlight on MBA members who voluntarily participate in MBA-affiliated public and community service programs. This week in eJournal we’re featuring attorney Caryn R. Mitchell-Munevar, a clinical professor at New England Law | Boston, who has been volunteering with the MBA’s Tiered Community Mentoring Program since 2010.
ABOUT THE MASSACHUSETTS BAR ASSOCIATION’S TIERED COMMUNITY MENTORING PROGRAM: The Tiered Community Mentoring Program (TCM) matches practicing lawyers with students from high school, college and law school. The goal of the program is to provide information, guidance and real-life experiences to participants, so they can make informed decisions regarding their future career. TCM is based in Boston and Worcester in an effort to reach urban high school students, with a focus on building a diverse mentoring network. For the 2020-21 year, TCM has combined its Boston and Worcester programs, and all TCM activities will be conducted virtually. The MBA program, which was initially created by Probate and Family Court Judge Angela M. Ordoñez, was honored with the 2011 ABA Partnership Award from the American Bar Association because of its commitment to diversity. Interested in volunteering? Contact the MBA’s Public & Community Services Department at (617) 338-0695 or via email.
MEET CARYN R. MITCHELL-MUNEVAR Q. Why did you decide to participate in this program?Caryn:
Mentorship has been critical to my personal and professional development. I have been fortunate to have individuals both in and outside of the legal community extend themselves to me. Although there are far too many mentors to name, some of my mentors in the legal community include the Honorable Angela Ordoñez, the Honorable Barbara Dortch-Okara (retired) and the Honorable Janine Rivers, and the Honorable Amy Blake. Because I have been so fortunate to have talented, brilliant people provide me with guidance and advice, and share their expertise, I believe it is my responsibility to reach back and provide the same guidance for those who aspire to work in the legal field.
I was especially attracted to the fact that there are three tiers of students to work with: high school, college and law school. Each tier has their own unique experiences to bring to the table. The students honor me with their stories, dreams and ambitions. I gain much more than I give.Q. What is the time commitment for this program?Caryn:
That really depends on how much time you have to commit. There are programs that we attend approximately once a month. Additionally, we connect with our mentees a few times a month. These connections are critical in developing an authentic and meaningful relationship. I have invited students to lunch and coffee, to attend court proceedings, and to sit in on law school classes. Q. How do you think your experience participating with this program will be impacted by the pandemic?Caryn:
I think we are all challenged during these times in our ability to connect. I will miss seeing the students and other mentors in person and attending events in person. However, I think that this offers a real opportunity to be creative and innovative. This year at New England Law, we’ve moved many events online and created new events like “fireside chats.” In many cases, with virtual events it is more possible for mentees to attend. We can also share videos of speakers more easily. Q. What do you think makes the Tiered Community Mentoring program different from other mentoring programs?Caryn:
Having three separate tiers of student mentees makes the TCM program different and wonderfully unique. I have the privilege of mentoring all three tiers, and the students also benefit from law students mentoring college students and college students mentoring high school students. The students benefit from the various levels and diversity of experience.
Q. Why would you recommend volunteering with the Tiered Community Mentoring program to others?Caryn:
Being a mentor certainly benefits the mentees, but honestly, I think I have gotten as much if not more by being a mentor. The students have an infectious energy; they are driven and excited about the law. They are eager to learn and have so much to offer. They honor me with their stories and experiences, which is a wonderful reminder of why I chose to go into law in the first place. It is very much a reciprocal relationship.
I also love meeting the other mentors. It is wonderful being in a room with knowledgeable, experienced individuals who are committed, sharing a common goal.
Q. Do you volunteer with any other MBA programs/committees or organizations outside the legal community? Caryn:
Yes, I am a member of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, the Massachusetts Hispanic Attorneys Association and Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys. I am also a pro bono attorney for HAWC (Healing Abuse Working for Change), a volunteer attorney and mentor for VLP (Volunteer Lawyers Project) and the WBA (Women’s Bar Association); an ARC attorney (Attorney Representing Children); a certified conciliator in Essex and Middlesex County; and a member of the MBA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.