In announcing a new mentoring prorgram for young lawyers, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier on Wednesday remembered his early professional life and the lessons he learned from more experienced attorneys.
"A good mentor can assist you not only as a new lawyer but also throughout your career," Karmeier said during a visit in Edwardsville.
Karmeier joined Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis, Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli, and the president of the Madison County Bar Association Ronald Foster Jr. in announcing the new "Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring Program."
The program is part of a statewide initiative to increase civility and professionalism in the state's legal system and to encourage professional growth of young attorneys.
The Madison County program will be operational, those participating in Wednesday's announcement said, by January.
The local arm of the initiative seeks to work with the anticipated 50 new attorneys who are likely to begin practicing in Madison County after the results of July's bar exam become known.
Both mentors and mentees will receive six continuing legal education credits for participating in the program.
While the outreach targets young solo practitioners, it also aims to work with new attorneys joining larger firms.
"Rather than just advertising Illinois has a great history of lawyers, we're actually doing something about it," Karmeier said.
The program will be administered by the bar association and Foster Jr. said that it is currently in the process of forming the board that will oversee the mentoring application and match process.
"We have the right and the duty to represent clients," Karmeier said, "and a new lawyer might think that duty overshadows what is good for the profession."
The justice noted that the program came in response to a lack of emphasis on professionalism that he believes has come due to the emphasis on the business side of the law.
The justice praised Callis and Tognarelli for their efforts in spearheading the program.
The initiative comes as the result of work by the Commission on Professional of the Illinois Supreme Court.
"We're quite pleased with the revitalization of the principles of mentoring in the last five years," said Jayne Reardon, the commission's executive director.
She noted that Illinois is one of only a few states that have a mentoring program coming on-line. "This is particularly gratifying especially given the recent volume of negative publicity about events in our state to be able to say, 'Look at Illinois, we're leading the way!'"
Foster Jr. spoke of his own mentoring experiences and the impact they had on his career.
"I was one of the lucky ones," he said. "Unfortunately, some of my colleagues coming out of law schools weren't so lucky to have such good people."
Law student James Bock also noted the need he experienced first-hand for someone to guide him in the more practical parts of being a lawyer.
He recounted how, while working with the Madison County Public Defender's Office earlier this summer, he was told during a docket call to get forms.
"I didn't know where they were," Bock said. "I didn't learn that in law school."
Bock, a third-year law student at Ave Maria School of Law in Florida, said he welcomed a chance to learn the parts of the legal world not taught in school.
"This Lawyer to Lawyer mentoring program is going to be a wonderful opportunity," Bock said. "It recognizes and emphasizes that each day is a unique learning experience in an attorney's life. Eventually, I need to go through the transition from a law student and new lawyer to an advocate, a counselor, and a professional. And I think this program will do that."
Tognarelli summed up the aims of what the mentoring aimed to teach succinctly following the speakers' statements.
"We're talking about practical, simple, every day," he said.
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