The purpose of the New Jersey Association for Justice, Inc. Mentoring Program is to promote professional growth of its members, provide an independent, confidential resource for lawyers and cultivate and maintain membership in the Association. The Mentoring Program is intended to supplement the educational seminars available to NJAJ members by establishing an outlet for discussion and advice on such topics as ethics, work/life balance, career development, practice and law office management, professionalism, and more.
HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS:
Participation in the Mentoring Program is voluntary. Experienced NJAJ members will be asked if they want to serve as a mentor to a young attorney. Those members will volunteer their time at no cost to the Mentees. NJAJ members will sign up if they want to have a mentor. Each Mentor/Mentee relationship will continue as mutually determined. Mentees will be assigned to a Mentor by the Mentor/Mentee Committee.
NJAJ also appreciates that volunteer mentors have limited time to donate, therefore, we suggest both the mentor and mentees follow the guidelines below:
- Commitment: Mentors will provide the benefit of their counsel without the expectation of any personal gain. As a general rule, they will not associate on, accept referrals from, or participate in any fee sharing agreement in cases or matters in which they are consulted as part of the Mentor Program. Exceptions to this rule may occur under circumstances that require an extraordinary time commitment, cost or consultation that the mentee may be unable to afford. Thus, we suggest the mentor provide one hour of consultation and guidance to the mentee each month.
- Those requesting a mentor will acknowledge that a lawyer's time is the most valuable commodity he or she has to offer. With this understanding, mentees agree not to abuse the consultation privilege. (A mentor's request to reduce the frequency of calls or meetings must be respected.)
- Volunteer mentors agree that NJAJ can make reasonable inquiry into their experience in any given field. Only attorneys with at least seven years’ experience practicing law and who have been NJAJ members for two or more years will be considered to mentor a mentee.
- The program's purpose is to allow newer bar members to share the mentor's experience on a periodic and regular basis in respect to building a successful legal practice, law office management, legal ethics, the benefits of participating in NJAJ programs or handling particular cases.
- The Mentor Program is a flexible arrangement to be determined between the participants.
a. The mentor has a responsibility to maintain regular, mutually convenient, contact with his/her mentee.
b. The mentee also has a responsibility to maintain regular, mutually convenient contact with his/her mentor.
c. All mentors and mentees are strongly encouraged to participate in the NJAJ List Servers.
d. Mentors and mentees should otherwise meet as needed for lunch, coffee, or to participate in one or more of the suggested list of activities following these guidelines. Further meetings or phone conversations should be mutually convenient.
- Communication: Effective communication will be essential to establishing a good relationship. Once assigned, the Mentor and Mentee should have a discussion about the expectations of each other, including time commitment, best method of contacting each other, and the goals of the relationship.
- Confidentiality: Communication between the Mentor/Mentee should be confidential, both in discussing “hypothetical” legal issues rather than specific cases and in general practice or office matters.
- Professional: The role of the Mentor is a professional role model. The Mentor may be a counselor offering guidance, but is not necessarily a best friend or a therapist.
- Scope of the relationship: This is a mentoring relationship, not a legal relationship. The Mentor is not expected to perform legal research in response to a Mentee question or concern.
- Professional Conduct: The Mentor/Mentee relationship should be conducted on a professional basis, respecting the highest ethical and behavioral standards. Any inappropriate conduct will result in immediate and permanent removal from the Mentoring Program.
- Client Responsibility: Neither the Mentor, nor the Mentee, shall disclose attorney-client information or client confidences. Mentor/Mentee communications are not privileged.
- If Problems Arise: Occasionally, a mentoring relationship will not meet the expectations of the participants. If a mentoring relationship is not working, either party can contact one of the Co-Chairs of the Mentor/Mentee Committee to confidentially discuss those concerns. The Co-Chair will determine whether those concerns can be addressed, or whether the mentoring relationship should be dissolved. If a relationship is dissolved, the parties can be reassigned if they wish.
RECOMMENDED TYPES OF MENTOR/MENTEE ACTIVITIES
NJAJ Sponsored Events - Mentors are encouraged to accompany or meet with their mentee at the following events:
- NJAJ Committee Meetings
- NJAJ Networking Events
In-Court Activities - Mentors are encouraged to invite their mentees to observe the following, where appropriate:
- Arguing a motion
- Voir Dire questioning
- Oral Arguments
- Direct Examination of a Witness or an Expert
- Cross Examination of a Witness or an Expert
- Other in-court activities
Mentees are recommended to invite their mentor to observe them in the practice of these in-court activities, for the purpose of requesting feedback, where appropriate.
Other Case-Related Activities - Mentors may invite their mentee to observe the following, where appropriate:
- Initial Client Meeting
- Basic Case Evaluation by Mentor (and partners, where applicable)
- Preparing a Settlement Demand/Determining the Damages
Mentees are recommended to invite their mentor to observe them in the practice of these case-related activities, for the purpose of requesting feedback, where appropriate.
Ethics and Professionalism - Mentors are requested to talk to their mentees about the following:
- Being a strong advocate without being antagonistic
- Dealing with overly aggressive opposing counsel
- Pro Bono Work
- Having a Life Outside the Office
Activities Related to Running Your Practice as a Business - Mentors are requested to talk to their mentees about the following:
- Setting up and Managing a Client Trust Account
- Acquiring Office Equipment
- Time Management - Practical and Theoretical
- Legal Software
- Advertising Tips - Marketing yourself and your Firm
- Billing and Collections
- Client Development
- Technology Used in Trials