Vol. 41, No. 8
In and Around the Bar
CBA President's Message to Members
Developing “Citizen Lawyers”—Perspectives From a Mentee and Mentor
by Troy R. Rackham
Troy R. Rackham is an attorney with Fennemore Craig, P.C. He has practiced law in Colorado since 2000. He practices in the areas of appeals, complex litigation, professional liability, medical malpractice, and professional responsibility—firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mentorship is one of the most critical components of training younger lawyers. Law school is important; so is obtaining experience in representing clients in real matters. Mentorship, however, supplies a core ingredient for the development of young lawyers by allowing the mentee to learn from lawyers with more experience. Mentorship allows a young lawyer to collaborate with his or her mentor on the day-to-day issues that face lawyers in this profession but that often do not get the focus they need—issues such as professionalism, work–life balance, leadership, ethics, and the business of practicing law.
I have had the good fortune of growing professionally in a garden of mentorship. This growth started in law school. I attended the College of William & Mary Law School, which developed a focus of training "citizen lawyers"1 while I was there. On reflection, this focus was not surprising, because legal education in this country literally began at the College of William & Mary by George Wythe,2 who was one of the greatest mentors in the legal profession—if judged by his mentees, including Thomas Jefferson and Chief Justice John Marshall.
After I became a lawyer, I again had the good fortune of working with a number of highly skilled, very professional lawyers. Many could be found in the firms I worked. Many were colleagues I worked with during cases or in bar activities. Several were members of the William Doyle Inn of Court, who would listen patiently to my sometimes naïve questions or concerns and respond with grace and professionalism. I learned immeasurably from these colleagues.
Sharing the Wealth of Mentorship
Now I have the opportunity to be a mentor. It is time for me to pay rent for the collective subsidies I have received from my previous mentors. Working with the DBA Mentoring Program has been rewarding personally, but the program undoubtedly will yield results far beyond my personal capacity to measure.
The objectives of the DBA’s program are to promote "pride in the profession, excellence in service; and strong relationships with the bar, clients, and the public."3 In short, the objectives of the program are to help grow citizen lawyers. These objectives are accomplished in a formal setting through teaching "the core values and ideals of the legal profession" and some practical, readily achievable ways to meet those ideals.4 The participants in the program agree mutually to an action plan designed to foster very practical development, such as becoming involved in bar-sponsored activities, developing skills with client meetings and client development, understanding the ethics and business of practicing law, and handling the immense pressures that come with balancing a developing career with family and personal interests.5
Moreover, the DBA mentoring program encourages the mentors and the mentees to work together in a pro bono representation.6 For lawyers who believe that members of the profession should be publicly minded and give some of their time to advancing the public interest—including providing legal services to those who cannot afford them—this systemic encouragement is an important part of the development of lawyers. It also has the practical benefit of assisting those in need and of developing the practical skills of a young lawyer who may, as part of the pro bono representation, be asked to examine witnesses, handle a hearing on behalf of an indigent client, or advocate the interests of such a client. Important to some, the participants in the mentoring program are able to obtain CLE credits (although the lawyers may not also receive CLE credit for a pro bono representation that is part of the mentoring program).7
I have so much more to learn as I advance through the legal profession and it is humbling to be in a position to participate as a leader or guide in another’s development in the profession—that is, teaching the skills to burgeoning citizen lawyers; actively promoting pride in the profession and excellence in service to others whose shoes I wore not long ago; and assisting a mentee in developing strong relationships with the bar, clients, and the public. It is equally gratifying and humbling to be a resource to Caitlin Quander and other newer lawyers who may need a sounding board when they are wrestling with the professionalism, ethical, and business challenges of practicing law. It likewise is humbling and gratifying to learn from the professionalism and skills of Mark Fogg and the other bar leaders whom I have been honored to observe (sometimes from too great a distance) over the past twelve years.
Citizen Lawyers as the Colorado Model
In my opinion, the mentoring program piloted by the DBA, if implemented statewide, will have great success and will serve as a model for other bar associations, which all struggle with how to develop citizen lawyers with integrity, civility, and humility. This is quite a challenge in a climate where the practice of law has become increasingly complex and where technology can make us distant, automated, and uncivil unless we buttress ourselves against these risks. With hope, and in the spirit of George Wythe’s example, the mentorship provided through the DBA program will be paid forward for future generations throughout Colorado and the United States, and will have a lasting impact on the legal profession, as well as on the practitioners of law.
1. See Reveley III, "The Citizen Lawyer," 50 William & Mary L.Rev. 1309 (2009), available online at scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1078&context=wmlr.
2. See Douglas, "The Jeffersonian Vision of Legal Education," 51 J. Legal Educ. 185, 185 (2001).
3. A description of the objectives and details of the DBA pilot program on mentoring can be found at www.denbar.org/index.cfm/ID/21197/DBA/Mentoring-Program.
4. Id. at § I(a)(1) and (2).
5. Id. at §§ IX and X.
6. Id. at § IV.
7. Id. at § IV(g).
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