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Kirsten Taggart
President, Young Lawyers Section

April 2014, President's Message

For those of you who made it down to the law school for the Rural Practice Symposium, you can back up everything that I am going to say here. Please join me in thanking Kelsea Sutton and the rest of the Law Review who put on the Symposium. It was an absolutely great experience, with wonderful speakers, and it was very impressive. Thank you to Dean Geu and the rest of the Law School faculty, staff, and students, for welcoming everyone to the Symposium, and being such gracious hosts. You all did a wonderful job and made South Dakota proud.

The panels during the Symposium were excellent, well attended, and well executed. There were many members of the Project Rural Practice Task Force in attendance. The Chief Justice gave the keynote address, and also participated on one of the panels. Linda Klein the soon-to-be President-Elect of the ABA, and Robert Carlson, the Chair of the House of Delegates came and participated on a panel. I was honored to be able to present both of them with a silver Hagemann-Morris Young Lawyer Mentorship Coin as a symbol of our appreciation for their dedication to the legal profession, and their friendship with South Dakota. Co-chairs of the Project Rural Practice task force Pat Goetzinger and Bob Morris participated, as well as Executive Director of the State Bar Tom Barnett. There were many other speakers and distinguished guests; it was overwhelming to see the support. The amount of talented individuals who contributed to the Law Review, and the Symposium was amazing. It truly was a tremendous event.

Thursday night of the symposium, the Young Lawyer Section hosted a Hagemann-Morris Young Lawyer Mentorship Coin Mixer at Carey’s that was a great way for lawyers in the circuit, law students, and symposium attendees to meet and greet each other. Thank you to Katie Johnson for organizing and hosting the event.

I have said it before, and I will continue to say it. You don’t know how good you have it, until you go somewhere else. In attendance at the Rural Practice Symposium were attorneys, President-Elects, and members of state bars from Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Iowa, Georgia, Montana, and probably a couple more states that I am forgetting. But the overwhelming response that you heard from these attorneys was, “you are really unique”, “you in South Dakota are really lucky”. I heard over and over again how their state bar and their judiciary are at odds, how the state bar does not have a relationship with the law school, and how they do not have a relationship with their legislature. I think it is easy to take for granted the camaraderie and the support that you find in this state. The relationship between the State Bar, the Law School, the Judiciary, and the Legislature, is one that makes other states envious of us. And it is something to be proud of and to remember not to take for granted.

The relationships we have formed, and the camaraderie we share is, not something that just happened, but something that has been fostered and grown over the last several years, maybe even decades. It is the responsibility of all lawyers to continue to grow and nurture these relationships. I want to thank all of those lawyers who have come before me for the path that they have paved. We as young lawyers have a responsibility to keep this state the envy of all others.

So thank you, for being such great attorneys to work with. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!

Kirsten M. Taggart
SD YLS President


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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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