Tag Archives: mentors

New Community-Service Trend Coming Out of NYC Law School.

“At a time when job opportunities are dismal, incubators offer a chance to create jobs for new lawyers,” says Fred Rooney,  Director of a newly formed, solo-based Community Legal Resource Network at The City University of New York (CUNY).  The concept of incubators is being taken up within certain law schools in an effort to fill the recent graduate job-less gap…and to meet the needs of the local community, to boot.

According to Law.com, the participating law schools teach an alumnus or alumnae to go directly into a solo practice. They do not pass go, and they do not collect $200.00*.  (The collecting of fees will likely come around at some point, which is the whole idea.)

Incubators also encourage the recent grad to work for underserved communities, for little or no cost.

For example, CUNY offered a spot in its incubator program to Yogi Patel (pictured here), who’d received his J.D. five years earlier.  Patel didn’t jump at the chance right away. He was “thinking of the logistics”.  He’d tried his hand at a law firm and at the legal department of a small construction firm.

Working for employers had its up side. They’d always had the logistics pretty much buttoned up.    “…I never had to think about that,” Patel explained. “Not having clients and managing the overhead were my biggest fears.” Still, he took a huge leap of faith and took CUNY up on their offer.

So what was it like?   Well, remember the logistics concern?  CUNY took care of at least one part of it: an  office.  It provided low-cost space in midtown Manhattan.

Oh, and it also provided office support.  (These perks can be had by selected graduates for at least two years.) So that’s another huge concern down. How many concerns to go?

What about the lack of support? And the well-documented need in law for some sort of mentor to oversee your efforts?  Not a problem.

“Participants have access to a large network of experienced solo practitioners who function as mentors, and [participants also] enjoy an internal support network among their colleagues in the incubator, which helps to reduce the isolation many solo practitioners [would otherwise] experience.”

CUNY was the first to launch an incubator in 2007, and now other schools are considering setting up incubators. “The Charlotte School of Law plans to have its Small Practice Center up and running next summer. Faculty and administrators at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Georgia State University College of Law and the University of Dayton School of Law are among those considering adding similar programs,” we read.

Too, Bar Associations like the idea. ” The Columbus Bar Association in Ohio began a year-long incubator in April with eight young attorneys,” notes Law.com.  More are on the way.

Quite a few law school administrators have come to New York to see the project at work, first-hand.

Additionally, the CUNY Director travels all over the country talking about the program.  Rooney has also “visited law schools in Europe, Central America and India to share his experience.”

As for the community service—what Rooney refers to as “low bono” work, although the spots do pay in the area of $75 per hour—CUNY incubators provide legal representation to clients who would otherwise not be able to afford a lawyer. Their fees are paid for by contracts with New York City.

It seems like quite a few legitimate concerns of recent grads who aim to start a solo or small firm can be addressed with incubators–and finding meaningful work would be one of them.  To learn more, go here: http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202513353708

*Words courtesy of Monopoly board game (Parker Brothers).



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Women Pioneers Teach Us a Thing or Two

If you’re a woman lawyer or administrator—or even if you’re a male attuned to diversity—try for a moment to imagine what life in the law industry was like for a woman two or even three decades ago.  

Several Georgia pioneers, now in their late forties to late-sixties, don’t have to use their imagination, as they were there.  

At that time, the term “diversity” hadn’t even been coined yet.  Support for women now is light years away from what it was then, and back then, there was no one around to tell women how to juggle a family and a career in law.  Yes somehow, these women overcame all the obstacles to make it in what was then a man’s world.

They are all accomplished lawyers now and are understandably serving as role models to younger women.  Several are also real-life mentors to other up-and-coming female attorneys.

The youngest, Jill A. Pryor, has been voted one of Georgia’s top lawyers for 2011.  

And as great as it is that things are different for women lawyers today, a few of these pioneers see some of the same troublesome sets of issues…although the telltale signs are harder to discern.   

The Fulton County Daily Report gave voice to these women who ventured into unknown territory many years ago.  Pryor, 47, a partner at Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, said that one of the things that made it hard for the few women that were around then was that it went against the grain to develop a win/win mentality.  

“We lawyers are so competitive, particularly in a law firm environment, and it goes against human nature to help those whom you perceive to be in competition with you. You see women who are superstars, and then one day they just opt out,” she said. “It’s easy to say that they didn’t really want to practice law, but there are much more subtle and complex factors at work. You have to look beyond the easy answer.”  

Chilton Davis Varner, 68 and a partner at King & Spalding, learned how to be a trial lawyer from male mentors, but would like to see women stepping up to the plate to help fellow women.  She also advises against being too hard on yourself.  “You never stop making mistakes. You just become better at finding and correcting them before others do.”

Leah Ward Sears, a partner at Schiff Hardin and a former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, tells women to, as she did, learn to find their own way. When push comes to shove, she says, turn to your own gender.  “It was always women,” she says, “who…had my back.”

Carol W. Hunstein, the highest-ranking judge in the state, says another judge, Judge Sara Doyle, heard her speak once, and that was enough to inspire her to run for the Georgia Board of Appeals. “”It really does encourage women and minorities when a woman or minority succeeds,” she says.

“Stick together. Take care of each other.  Become the good old girls network,” said Sara  S.Turnipseed, 63, a mother of three daughters and a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.  She believes that it’s still all too easy to “ruin a woman’s reputation” in law. To remedy that, when she’s pointing something out to a younger woman who “needs to sharpen her skills”, she won’t announce it in front of others.  Instead, she’ll go into her office with the younger woman, close the door, and talk to her in private.  

One thing all these women agreed on is that women helping women on the way up has enormous trickle-down effects. As Pryor says : “…the more of us there are who are successful, the more everyone – [and] the profession — benefits.”  To read more, go to: http://bit.ly/hmBL60


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