In September of 1987, the Virginia Supreme Court established what is now the Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Course. Chief Justice Carrico saw the importance of improving both quality of representation and professionalism of lawyers. As a result, all newly licensed lawyers are required to take the course within twelve months of obtaining their bar licenses.
These new lawyers benefit greatly from the course, as the curriculum is focused on information that is not taught during law school or bar exam preparation. However, twelve hours is not enough time to cover everything these lawyers need to learn to become effective advocates. As we all learned through trial and error, the true practice of law is defined by the intricacies of our chosen practice areas and the unique procedures of local judges. These can only be learned through exposure.
As a result, it falls on experienced lawyers to help realize the late Chief Justice’s ideals. We should all strive to help newly licensed lawyers who are interested in our practice areas. So what is the best way to get connected with these lawyers, and how should we help them learn the practice of law?
HOW TO CONNECT WITH NEW LAWYERS
The best ways I have found to connect with new lawyers are:
- mentor programs at law schools;
- internships; and
Most law schools in Virginia have mentoring programs that allow alumni or experienced lawyers to connect with current law students. For example, I am currently participating in the College of William and Mary’s Co-Counsel Program. The school connected me with law students interested in my practice area, and I have been able to share my experiences with them as a result. If you are interested in mentoring programs, the Antonin Scalia Law School, Washington & Lee, and the University of Virginia all have similar programs. Simply contact the law school of your choice and get connected with a law student.
Alternatively, third year law students and recent graduates are looking for work or internships while they get ready for the bar exam. The career services department of local law schools can connect you with these students. You can offer these students internship programs or paid positions.
However, the best method I have found for connecting with new lawyers is by networking at bar association events or at the courthouse. You can usually spot new lawyers by their demeanor in the courtroom. They may not know where to sit for docket call or may have difficulty locating their courtroom. It never hurts to introduce yourself and offer some help.
Finally, listservs can be a good way of connecting with new lawyers. I have had good experiences with the Virginia Trial Lawyer Association’s listserv and the Virginia State Family Law Section’s listserv. Make an effort to locate listservs for your practice areas and try to answer questions.
HOW TO TEACH NEW LAWYERS
The best ways I use to teach new lawyers are:
- answer questions on listservs or by email;
- encourage them to shadow you; and
- lead by example.
Exposure to the legal profession is the best way to teach the practice of law. I stay in contact with all the new lawyers that I meet through the various bar-association events, mentoring programs, and dockets that I attend. I encourage them to send me emails or to give me a call whenever they have interesting legal issues come up.
I also make a habit of connecting new lawyers with traditional entry level services such as serving as a Guardian ad Litem, temporary detention hearings, court appointed counsel for criminal matters and legal aid workshops for areas such as immigration and housing. You should allow new lawyers to shadow you if you do these services and help them get certified.
Finally, make sure that you are leading by example. New lawyers look to experienced lawyers to show them what effective representation looks like. Always be mindful of how you conduct yourself in the courtroom and the level of diligence you put into your cases. New lawyers will emulate us, and we need to make sure we are setting a good example.
About the Author
Matthew Kreitzer is a solo practitioner in Winchester, VA. He is a graduate of the William and Mary School of Law. He routinely practices family law and commercial litigation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and is always happy to chat with new lawyers.