It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program, Part 1

On October 17, 2011, The John Marshall Law School became the first law school in Illinois to launch an Illinois-Supreme-Court-approved Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program in collaboration with the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. Fifty lawyer/mentors and student/mentees were matched, attended orientation, and participated in an ethics program presented by Judge Ray McKoski (Ret.) to kick off their one-year commitment to mentoring. Since that date John Marshall has held two additional mentoring orientations to match a similar number of mentors and mentees.

Judge Ray McKoski

Judge Ray McKoski (Ret.)
19th Judicial Circuit

What makes this program different from other mentoring programs is the continued structure and support provided by John Marshall and the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. The Commission’s Mentoring Guide serves as a year-long curriculum to facilitate the relationship between mentors and mentees. It provides a mentoring plan that articulates suggested topics for the mentor and mentee to discuss, including professionalism, legal ethics, civility, diversity and inclusion, wellness, mental health, and addiction. Of course, discussions are not limited to these topics.

In addition to the mentoring plan, mentors and mentees are provided with worksheets that correspond to topics identified in the mentoring plan. Worksheets contain articles, websites, books, etc., and help facilitate discussion-and-answer questions in connection with the topics suggested in the mentoring plan.

At our most recent orientation on July 25 several current mentors and mentees discussed their experiences. Let me share some of the interesting insights from the panelists who participated in this orientation.

Karen J. Dimond

Karen received both her undergraduate and law degrees from Loyola University in Chicago. She has spent her entire career representing public entities – as an assistant attorney general, as an associate for a firm representing school districts, and, currently, as an assistant state’s attorney. She is the past president of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and has lectured and taught extensively in the areas of litigation and appellate practice.

Karen is currently mentoring a recent John Marshall graduate, Sheila Wentland. Sheila has worked for a law firm specializing in creditor’s rights. Before becoming a licensed attorney, she worked for about 16 years in consulting and finance positions. Sheila holds a BS in finance and an MBA.

When I asked Karen to comment on her mentoring experience she responded, “I love being a mentor and often find that I learn a lot from my mentees, too (regarding new technology, what law schools are currently teaching, how cases are handled at their firms, etc.). It’s actually a two-way street.”

Karen’s mentee, Sheila Wentland, had the following insight:

“I have enjoyed participating in the mentoring program for many reasons. The very personal and insightful information from my mentor, Karen Dimond, was an unexpected benefit. The time Karen took to listen to my aspirations and challenges as I began my legal career was invaluable. I genuinely feel the relationship we have established through the mentoring program will last well beyond our initial year.”

Stay tuned. My next post will continue with the insights of Barry Kozak, John Marshall adjunct faculty member and director of Elder Law Programs.