The Massachusetts Bar Association has launched a new
professional development program that is intended to benefit both
mentors and mentees. The MBA is currently looking for members at
all professional levels to form one group in each of the 14
Massachusetts counties, of eight to 12 persons each, to meet
quarterly beginning this month.
MBA Mentoring Circles will combine varying professional levels
together, providing all members, whether experience or recently
graduated, with the
resources they need to develop and improve
their management and leadership skills and grow within the
profession. The desired professional mix of an individual group
would include two to three senior level attorneys, one retired
judge or attorney, and five to eight attorneys who have practiced
for 10 years or less.
The MBA's research shows that mentoring groups are a growing
trend, says Laura Marcello, MBA's membership marketing manager.
Their mission differs from referral clubs; instead, it's to create
an environment in which any member can ask a question of which they
fear they should already know the answer. "It's a bigger
discussion," she says. "Chances are someone will have had a similar
experience." Members must commit to giving advice and support, and
must respect member confidentiality.
"It's a very important initiative," says MBA immediate Past
President Denise Squillante, because of the most difficult hiring
climate in decades for new lawyers. Citing recent press reports of
two law schools being sued by graduates who allege that the schools
inflated post-graduate employment and salary statistics, she says
Mentoring Circles is the MBA's response to the employment crisis.
"It's a much-needed lifeline, because unemployed new lawyers are
setting up practices when they had no intention of doing so while
in law school."
To help them develop their practice-management skills, Mentoring
Circle members will provide support and encouragement in a
confidential setting, allowing both the mentor and the mentee to
establish important lifelong connections.
"It's getting people to meet people," Squillante says. "One of
the reasons I became so involved with the [Massachusetts] Bar
Association is that the practice of law was so isolating." A
private practice attorney with decades of experience, she says she
enjoys private practice but she's aware of the pitfalls it holds
for some - especially newcomers without a foothold in their
The isolation is increasing, she says. Before the implementation
of Rule 9a, for example, lawyers had to go to Superior Court to
file a motion. "There'd be tons of lawyers there, you'd be chatting
with them, and get to meet all the lawyers in your community." Now,
motions are done in writing, without the need for a trip to court.
Additionally, the growth in numbers of pro se litigants
has resulted in fewer lawyers in the courts, she says.
Add to that the number of hours attorneys spend in their offices
working on computers, and it creates a gulf. "This will provide a
mechanism to really break the ice," Squillante says. "They have an
opportunity to be in an environment that will assist them and take
the edge off the stresses of the practice of law."
Mentoring Circles won't just benefit newer practitioners,
however. "Many older lawyers tell me they might go to court and see
new faces, but they don't know who they are. So for the older
[lawyer] who wants to lend a helping hand, this provides a
mechanism to meet younger [attorneys]. … Especially if you have a
case and all of a sudden a lawyer enters an appearance on the case,
if you know who that person is, you can develop a rapport."
Member benefits are envisioned as follows:
Newly admitted lawyers: Ensure preparedness for
the responsible practice of law and confirm commitment to
professionalism. Provide networking tools that will result in
business contact growth.
Senior-level attorneys and retired judges and
attorneys: Provide development tools through peer
mentoring, as well as offering new viewpoints on the practice and
business of law. Provide networking tools that will result in
business contact growth.
Participants in Mentoring Circles can choose their meeting site;
it could be a nearby restaurant, coffee house or other location.
The Mentoring Circles are also expected to encourage more
participation by attorneys in the communities they serve, as well
as to offer them a way to become more active within the MBA.