Time to Mentor

By Candyce Beumler Pardee
February 29, 2012

The third-year law student at the University of Arizona wanted to find a mentor who was a practicing lawyer-and a mom. I jumped at the chance. I had been on the mentor list for several years, [i] and this was my first chance to actually have a mentee. [ii] I contacted my mentee, and we agreed to meet for coffee in Tucson. I walked into the coffee shop, peering around like I was trying to find a blind date, and immediately spotted … nobody. A short time later, a tall, slender young woman with an adorable toddler came through the door. My mentee!

We talked about law school and law review. She had been a Peace Corps volunteer prior to law school. My daughter was in the Peace Corps. But mainly I assured her, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." I mean, "Yes, there is life beyond law school that can be accomplished while being a mom." I explained that it wouldn't be all that much different from her law school experience-juggling classes, law review, and a baby. Sometimes the juggling worked out well, and sometimes something crashed to the floor.

I told her she might want to forget the big money while the children were small and to find a job with an understanding boss [iii] and one that most days let her walk away at 5 and go home, although I did know moms in high-powered law firms who also did well. I even gave her housekeeping advice. [iv] Despite this, we continued to keep in touch until she graduated.

Did I help that incredibly intelligent, organized young woman with the adorable toddler? Probably not. Did we have a great mentor-mentee relationship? Definitely. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

The Mentor Committee is one of many within the State Bar. The Mentor Committee works as a kind of dating service, without the whole dream of love or hope of meaningless sex. Third-year law students from the three Arizona law schools may be looking for a mentor to take them to court, take them to bar luncheons, help them learn how to network, and show them how to be an ethical attorney in practice.

Young attorneys already in practice and solo practitioners may also need help in networking. These mentees may just need someone who has already been doing work in the area of practice they've chosen to bounce ideas off of or to talk about what to expect in court with particular judges.[v] Some attorney mentees may need some specific advice and direction in how to juggle the various areas of their practice, [vi] keep everything straight, and avoid angering either clients or the State Bar Disciplinary committee. [vii]

On occasion, the Mentor Committee may partner with the Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP) to help with practice tips to provide help and direction in running a law office. They may help attorneys discover better, more efficient ways to conduct their practice.

Why should experienced attorneys mentor?

It's fun. You get to tell war stories to someone who hasn't already heard them all. [viii] You get to go to all those bar luncheons you've been avoiding so that you can introduce this individual around. If you are in a service club (Rotary, Lions, etc.), you've got an individual you've taken under your wing whom you bring to your meeting for networking purposes. [ix] You've got a built-in audience when you go to court; someone to hear all those comments you mutter into your chest while awaiting your chance to approach the bar. You may even secure clients from your mentee when the mentee runs into areas outside of the mentee's area of practice, and you can likewise pass along clients in areas in which you no longer practice. [x] Best of all, you have an opportunity to personally develop civility within the Bar instead of just complaining about how the level of civility has dropped since you started practicing. [xi]

Attorney Tiffani Lucero of Rader & Lucero and her mentee discussed substantive law issues and balancing career and home life during the times they met. Ms. Lucero commented, "I feel like [her mentee]'s confidence has increased, and that is a huge success from when we first met. I have truly enjoyed this experience; it is very rewarding. I would like to continue with the program."

Even in those instances where the mentor-mentee relationship didn't work for some reason, comments from past mentor-mentee evaluations indicate that the individuals would do it again: "I would love to participate in this program again, despite the fact that this relationship was not successful this time."

  • If you want to be either a mentor or a mentee, you can investigate the expectations for both mentors and mentees on the State Bar of Arizona website by clicking first on committees, then on mentor committee. You could even choose to type this line of letters into your search engine: /sectionsandcommittees/committees/mentorcommittee.
  • Although the guidelines suggest that the mentee initiate the contact and set up monthly meetings with the mentor, some mentors choose to initiate the contact with the mentee, particularly if the mentee is in law school. A law student mentee may feel uncomfortable with "bothering" the mentor and fail to make that initial contact.
  • Don't know what you'd talk about with your mentee or mentor? Suggestions for topics of conversation are included in the guidelines. Don't know what you'd do with your mentee or mentor? Suggestions on things to do are also included in the guidelines. How about doing your own investigation about whether being a mentor is all that and more? Why not ask someone who has been a mentor?

Maybe you'll recognize some of the names of the attorneys who were recognized by the State Bar Mentor Committee for their service as mentors in 2011:Jim Benham, Dean Christoffel, Jason Donkersley, William Fairbourn, Patrick Farrell, David Goldstein, Steven Hirsch, Michael Hornisher, Michael King, Ronee Korbin-Steiner, Tiffani Lucero, Kraig Marton, Daniel Maynard, Kelly Mooney, Stephen Newmark, Dean O'Connor, James Osborn Popp, Michael Palumbo, Sam Saks, Cindy Sehr, Richard Stewart, Christine Stutz, Pacer UdallandLaurel Workman. Ask them what they thought of being a mentor-and if they'd do it again.

  • Want to sign up to be a mentor or mentee? Contact Donna Klimek at the State Bar: 4201 N. 24th Street, Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85016-6288, or call 602.340.7314 or e-mail her at Donna.Klimek@staff.azbar.org.

Best of all, by being a mentor or a mentee, you have the opportunity to enjoy the friendship of someone you might otherwise never have met.

Candyce Beumler Pardee, a third-generation Arizona attorney, comprises the Yuma office of Udall, Shumway and Lyons. Despite comments about dating services in the article, she is happily married to Yuma County Deputy Public Defender David Pardee. Reading too many Terry Pratchett Discworld books may explain her writing style. Or possibly not.



[i] Admittedly, I signed up to become a mentor because I thought they said I'd get a manatee, not a "mentee."

[ii] My areas of expertise were prosecuting child molesters and representing school districts. County Attorneys' offices frown on private attorneys coming in like caped avengers to prosecute child molesters, and for the rest of us, well, we had the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys Advisory Council to hook us up with mentors.

[iii] Mine, the county attorney, watched my baby and changed diapers while I met with a school board to adopt charges against a popular basketball coach. Neither of these may have been the best of career moves.

[iv] Forget it. Either throw the door open, look over the shoulder of the person at the door in a harried manner and say, "I thought you were the police … someone came in and vandalized my house," or invest in get-well cards, display them prominently, answer the door in a bathrobe with tissues in hand and say, "Pardon the mess, I've been very ill." With any luck, they'll offer to clean the house and even bring you a casserole for dinner.

[v] In a manner that will not be in violation of the State Bar Ethics Code, of course.

[vi] Hire the best experienced legal secretary you can afford. Failing that, hire a really good nanny and somebody to type and file-the nanny to make sure you do what you are supposed to do and be where you are supposed to be … or maybe that's just me.

[vii] Another State Bar Committee, but not nearly as much fun.

[viii] Over and over again.

[ix] With the added benefit of making the club's membership chairman salivate.

[x] Those files that come with flea collars because they are such dogs-not the ones to give to a mentee.

[xi] Unless you are the reason the level of civility has dropped.

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