The Blog

A Reflection on the Importance of Mentors

As we welcome the springtime months, we often set expectations and goals for our future legal endeavors, like beginning a new practice, making partner or simply trying a case. These plans inspire us to forge ahead into these beautiful months. A mindfulness of our past experiences, especially the role of mentors, should also guide these future aspirations. So accordingly, I would like to devote this editorial to a mentor of mine, Chief Judge John H. Bailey Jr. of the Northern Judicial Circuit Superior Court, and share one of the many important lessons that he taught me during my clerkship with him several years ago.

Mentors help us bridge the gap between the technical aspects of law school and the life of the law, which according to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., is experience. To illustrate this point: first, Judge Bailey knew from experience that the practice of law extends well beyond a bare interpretation of a statute. Non-lawyers have a tremendous amount of wisdom to offer all of us. By listening to the bailiffs and deputies, we learned about the root causes of disputes and dynamics in the local community. Second, the experience with Judge Bailey fostered an enduring appreciation for individuals, like Mrs. Pam and Mrs. Susan, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure an efficient calendar and timely transcripts. Third and most importantly, Judge Bailey instilled a fundamental sense of fairness in all of us. He would often remark, “No matter how small the pancake, it always has two sides.” At the most basic level, he taught us that the practice of law is distinctly human.

The lessons learned from Judge Bailey continue to grow in meaning even after the clerkship. A mentor is truly a life-long friend. Judge Bailey celebrated with us at our wedding and shared in our joy when we welcomed our first child. Fellow young lawyers, I respectfully ask that each of you take a moment to thank the mentors in your lives. One day we can carry on this fine tradition of mentoring others in our profession.