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Jennifer Williams
President, Young Lawyers Section
2014-2015

July 2014, President's Message

Mug shot anyone?!

Maybe you were not as happy as I was to have your picture taken for the State Bar Online Directory. Regardless, thank you for letting me
or Larry Zastrow take your picture! The Directory will be more fun to
look at because of it.

This whole picture-taking experience got me thinking. How does one get a person to participate— in anything? In this instance, Larry Zastrow had a professional photography station set up, the chair open for the sitting, and the camera ready in hand. Yet, not one person voluntarily sat in the chair for a picture. (Well, except me. I wouldn’t miss the chance for a good mug shot.) And even when asked to sit and have a picture taken, people balked, resisted, gave excuses.
Some nearly ran away. Indeed, there were many that agreed, but not until we told them the purpose of the picture. Even more people agreed, as they said, “Only because you asked.” Is this not an accurate reflection of what happens with most events, programs,
or activities? Few people seek out the opportunity to give of themselves and their time; equally as few are the people that say
“yes” at the fi rst request. But many are those that end up participating
because they have been specifically asked by someone.

So here I am asking YOU (all the young lawyers) to help us make this
a stellar year of participation in the Young Lawyers Section by young
lawyers across this state. If you are wondering whether you are a young lawyer, our bylaws provide that you are automatically a member of the Young Lawyers Section if you are a member of the South Dakota State Bar and are under 36 years old or admitted to practice in any state or combination of states for less than 10 years. If you’re
wondering how you can help—you can volunteer to talk to a non-profi t
group or organization as part of the Speaker’s Bureau Program, become a mentee and attend the mixers for the Hagemann-Morris Young Lawyer Mentorship Coin Program, assist the circuit representatives in the hosting of the Young Lawyer Boot Camp, and
volunteer to do public education and outreach to help improve the image of the legal profession. Finally, if you are wondering why you should participate—do it because it will be fun, you will meet interesting people, enhance your work day life as a lawyer, and, mainly, because I asked!

Let me close with a huge thank you to Tom Barnett, DeeAnn Stevens,
and Nicole Ogan for organizing an outstanding State Bar Annual
Meeting, to Kirsten Taggart for her commendable leadership as the past Young Lawyers Section President, and to my fellow young lawyers for electing me as your Young Lawyers Section President for 2014-2015.


Jennifer Williams




 

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Top 5 Common Misconceptions About the
Hagemann-Morris Young Lawyer Mentorship Coin Program

5. As a mentor I will have to teach a young lawyer how to practice law.
This is a very narrow view of the mentorship program, and not at all an accurate description of the program. While it may be true that some young lawyers will need practical help, and may have practice questions, mentoring is truly so much more than just that. Young lawyers need to learn about civility, how we as a small bar interact with one another, how to balance work and life, how to bill, how to handle staff, or partners, or possible career changes, how to be an active member of the Bar, and their communities. Mentoring a young lawyer can take on many forms, and may include walking beside someone and helping them learn the practice of law. But really, it is helping them learn to live life as a lawyer.

4. I am a young lawyer and don't know exactly what practice area I want to be in, or I don't have a job yet, so I don't need a mentor.
Honestly, this is probably the time you need a mentor the most! While job searching, who better to help you market and network, than an already established attorney? Who better to give you feedback on resumes, interviewing, follow-up, etc., than someone who has been there and probably hired a few attorneys in their time? And if you're not sure which area you want to practice in, most South Dakota attorneys are general practitioners, and will be able to expose you to, and give you practical advice about, most areas of the law.

3. If I get a mentor/mentee that I don't get along with I will be stuck with them forever.
Everyone is different, and sometimes their expectations are different. If there ever comes a time when the mentee or the mentor does not feel that the relationship is beneficial any longer, that person can contact the Young Lawyers Board and we will find a new mentor/mentee for you. You absolutely will not be stuck, and you won't even have to send the Dear John letter!

2. I mentor young associates in my firm, so I don't need to mentor anyone else.
Some young lawyers are fortunate enough to end up in a firm large enough where they may have many mentors within that firm. But if you refer back to No. 5, and see that the scope of the program is so much larger than just the nuts and bolts of practicing law, you will realize your experience is invaluable to young lawyers outside your firm. I have heard grumblings that civility, or rather lack thereof, is becoming a huge problem in our Bar. If you have ever thought that someone needed to teach a young lawyer something about civility, you are right. And that someone might just be you. There are many young lawyers who are not fortunate enough to have mentors within their firms, or they might be solo practitioners. We are all South Dakota lawyers, so I would encourage you to look outside your firm's four walls.

1. I have a mentor in my firm, so I don't need another one.
First, mentors within your firm are invaluable, so please take advantage of everything they have to offer. Having a mentor outside your firm does not mean that you do not appreciate the mentorship you have within your firm. But, what if you are a mom and no one in your firm has kids, or what if you are a single guy and everyone in your firm is married with kids? Who do you talk to about the issues you face, that no one else is dealing with? Or who do you talk to when you have a question about your partnership track, or your salary, or your bonus, or a conflict within the firm? If you have a problem with depression or alcohol, are you more likely to talk to your mentor first, or a partner in your firm? It is invaluable to have someone that you trust, who only has your best interest in mind that you can talk to in confidence.

I hope that these five misconceptions have been cleared up and that there is a better understanding of the Hagemann-Morris Young Lawyer Mentorship Coin Program. If any of these misconceptions have been holding you back from applying as a mentor or a mentee, I would encourage you to fill out the application and submit it today!

 

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