News & Insights
The Professionalism Committee: Developing the Bar Through Mentorship and Education
FIRST PUBLISHED BY THE HOUSTON LAWYER MAGAZINE
November 15, 2021
As work-from-home, court closures, and Zoom dockets, hearings, and meetings continue to be common practice, the HBA’s Professionalism Committee wants to help foster mentorship relationships that are sorely needed given the lack of in-person events. If you are looking to mentor a junior attorney, or you are in need of a mentor in your practice area, please keep reading and sign up for the HBA Mentor Mentee Program.
The Committee was established to improve the quality of the bar, foster civility between members of the legal community, and build public trust in the legal profession. Beyond mentorship, Committee members work on a number of initiatives, including a commemoration of the Texas Day of Civility in the Law, providing CLE ethics and professionalism programming.
In response to COVID-19, the Committee transitioned its programming online. One CLE program focused on professionalism in the Zoom world and the new social, professional, and ethical norms of practicing law while working from home. The Texas Day of Civility in the Law, hosted online on April 16, 2021, featured a judicial panel discussion by Hon. Sarah Beth Landau, Hon. Tristan Longino, Claudia Frost, and David Oelman, and a recording is available online for anyone who missed the program.
As mentioned, the Committee’s driving effort is its mentorship program, which was established in 1996 and has matched over 1,200 young attorneys with mentors since its inception. The Committee recognized that existing programs focused on connecting law students with attorneys, but there was a need to help practicing junior attorneys, especially those outside of larger law firm practices, find mentors for their careers. Thus, the Mentor-Mentee Program was born, becoming one of the few mentoring programs that addresses the value of connecting newly minted attorneys with experienced lawyers practicing in the same field.
Junior attorneys who have been licensed for fewer than five years are able to specify their own particular interests and preferences, including area of practice, areas of Houston to meet, and the greatest benefit they hope to gain from the program. The Committee recruits mentor attorneys from all practice groups and parts of town so that mentors can be carefully paired with mentees. Attorneys who are members of the HBA, have been practicing for five or more years, and can commit to meeting with an assigned mentee for at least one hour per month are eligible to become mentors.
Engaging mentors and mentees in the program has become more difficult with COVID-19, as many prior recruits—both mentees and mentors—often learned of the program by word of mouth. Last year, the Committee was only able to make 19 matches, down from 57 matches from 2019-2020. The need for formal mentorship and connection is now more important than ever, as organic interactions between junior and senior attorneys are less likely to occur without the office and courthouse settings.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, please see the HBA Professionalism Committee website at hba.org/professionalism for sign-up forms and more information.