Committee on Mentoring

Inception and Overview

The Commercial and Federal Litigation Section’s Mentoring Program, inaugurated in the fall of 2010, is a groundbreaking endeavor inspired by former NYSBA President Steve Younger’s emphasis on the future of the legal profession.  The program provides newer attorneys (0-9 years in practice) with the opportunity to build one-on-one relationships with seasoned practitioners (10 years and more) for the purpose of opening new avenues for professional development.  The Section also benefits by recruiting, maintaining and more deeply engaging mentees in Section committees, reports, events and other activities.

Initiation of the Program

There are currently 43 mentors and 57 mentees are participating in mentoring program.  (Several mentors have graciously agreed to take on two or more mentees.)  We recruited our mentors from among the state's most experienced attorneys, including present and former Presidents of the NYSBA, present and former Chairs of the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section, Section executive committee members, and other prominent commercial litigators.  The mentees were invited via e-blasts to all Section members and word of mouth, as well as an outreach effort to members of the Young Lawyers Section.

We devised questionnaires for prospective mentors and mentees to fill out both at the inception of the program as well as during subsequent recruitment periods for new mentors and mentees.  We provided prospective mentors with a three-week turnaround time to return their questionnaires, so that we would know in advance of mentee recruitment how many mentors would be available.  We then solicited mentees through an e-blast, which hyperlinked to a questionnaire designed for prospective mentees.

The Matching Process

The co-chairs met in person to match up prospective mentorship pairs based on geography/locality, sub-specialties within commercial litigation (for example, a common interest in employment litigation, or antitrust litigation), and, if requested by the mentee, by demographic grouping such as gender, race, disability or parental status.  Each pair was then “introduced” to one another with an email attaching both the mentor’s and the mentee’s forms, together with contact information. 

In November 2010, the Section hosted a reception and kickoff for program participants at Lincoln Center.  At the event, the Section’s committee chairs were encouraged to circulate and invite the new pairings to become involved in committee activities.  Sign-up sheets for each committee were also available at the door.  The event was a great success, with the Honorable Judith Kaye sharing her thoughts about the importance of mentoring.  News coverage was arranged with the New York Law Journal.  At the kickoff program held in the fall of 2011, former Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau was our keynote speaker who, like Chief Judge Kaye, also embraced the importance of mentoring in her remarks to the group.

The mentee-mentor pairs were invited to attend our various Section programs, including the Commercial and Federal Litigation's CLE and Annual Luncheon and Reception.  In addition, the Mentoring Program organized a private tour of Manhattan Supreme Court, where participants interacted with, and learned from, from key court personnel about the front and back-office operations of one of the busiest and most important courts in the nation.  Over the past two years, the Mentoring Program invited the mentor-mentee pairs to its Speaker Series, which featured informal discussions with prominent jurists including Hon. Jeffrey Oing of the Commercial Division and Hon Richard Sullivan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  The program hosted an outing last summer at Citi Field where program participants received complimentary tickets to watch the Mets host the Miami Marlins.  At our last kickoff program held in the fall of 2012, we were fortunate to have Hon. Loretta A. Preska, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on hand to speak to the mentors and mentees about the importance of mentoring.

Lastly, the Mentoring Program will be encouraging mentees (and mentors) to attend the third edition of the Commercial Litigation Academy which will be taking place in New York City later this year.  This cutting-edge CLE program, which was created in conjunction with and as an integral part of the Mentoring Program, will again feature some of the top commercial litigators in the profession.

Because one of the important goals of the program has been to increase Section membership and involvement, the Section requires all mentees who were not already members to join.  It has granted requests for waiver or partial waiver of dues in appropriate circumstances as part of its overall accessibility policy. 

How Do We Measure Success and Plan for the Future

 In consultation with professional coach and mentoring expert Elise Holtzman, we set out several factors by which we constantly measure our success:

  1.  Establishing attainable goals
  2. Setting benchmarks for achieving those goals
  3. Achieving buy-in among Section leadership
  4. Creating accountability and
  5. Facilitating feedback

We believe that our exciting and innovative program will foster stronger relationships between experienced and newer attorneys and will give all those involved a greater sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in the practice of law. 

The Committee on Mentoring is co-chaired by Jonathan D. Lupkin, Rakower Lupkin PLLC, New York City jlupkin@rakowerlupkin.com and Matthew R. Maron, Tannenbaum, Helpern Syraucse & Hirschtritt LLP, New York City maron@thsh.com and Dana Syracuse, NYS Office of The Attorney General, New York City, dana.syracuse@gmail.com.