More on mentorship. Just ask.
I am in the throes of trial prep. It’s been a little while since I’ve had to get out the three hole punch and make a trial notebook, but as I’d hoped, it is very much like riding a bike. I haven’t completely forgotten how to do this dance. I’ve got the sentencing guidelines at the ready to make sure that the client understands what the risks are at trial, and I’ve got a good pile of discovery to still wade through before we get to the starting block. But all in all, it feels pretty good to be where I’m at right now.
The most important thing I have right now are really good mentors. I work in an office by myself. There are no other attorneys in this entire building. It’s just me and the folks at the home health care and interior design office. The benefit to this office is that it’s cheap. The detractor is that it’s lonely. I am a terribly social person, as most people who know me will attest to. But, as a born-again lawyer, I find that I second guess a lot of what I think. You know, maybe my gut instincts aren’t what they used to be, maybe it needs a little recalibration. So, I’ve looked outside and found a whole slew of lawyers who, while extraordinarily busy, are willing to take time to walk me through scenarios or talk me down off the ledge.
So, young lawyer asks, how do I find a mentor? How do I find someone who is willing to give up valuable time and not think I’m a complete moron for asking very basic questions. Well, first, the mentor might think you are a complete moron. Really, they might. But, as a member of the criminal defense family, these people want you to no longer be a moron. They want you to fight the good fight and be good at what you do. If you are incapable of being good and you’ve already taken on a matter, they want to make sure you don’t royally fuck it up and screw up someone’s life but good. Ask the stupid, basic question regardless of how you think it makes you look. It’s better than the alternative.
The mentor finding is really quite easy. If you are a criminal defense lawyer, you probably know other criminal defense lawyers who know more stuff than you. Ask them a question. Seriously. Email them and say do you have some time I have X issue and I’d love to talk about it with you. Most of us are complete law dorks. We love talking (and writing) about these issues and we love to hear ourselves talk and we like to think we know a lot of stuff and would probably be flattered that someone thinks we know more stuff than them. It’s also a great way for those more experienced lawyers to learn a thing or two and maybe get creative and away from how we normally do things. I promise you that if you ask an experienced criminal defense lawyer for their time, they will 95% of the time say yes.
In Not Guilty’s previous incarnation I would talk at length about the case and the facts and what I thought a defense might be. I’m disinclined to do that for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I need help. I’ve been a practicing lawyer for 10 years (2 years were lost to stay at home momhood) and I still need help. I’ve tried a few cases, and I still need help. I’ve said it before, but I’ve found a lot of wonderful, helpful lawyers in the blogosphere. The folks you see on the right are not just people I read because they write pretty words. They are good, smart lawyers and because they take the time to write about issues that affect each and every one of us (yes, even you super law abiding citizen, you have whatever protections you have because those guys and girls over there —-> go to bat for people who do get jammed up), they also take the time to talk to new and re-newed lawyers about their cases.
As an aside, baby lawyers take note – there are very important things to be learned from our elders at the bar. I know they get involved in ridiculous disputes online and they may seem fairly off putting in how they handle themselves on occasion, but it is the nature of the beast. People who do this work are not sane, they are not completely um, normal. Do not dismiss any one of these people because you don’t like their take on twitter or whether to allow comments on their blog. Those are distractions from the real value of their blogs, and trust this not so baby but kinda brand new lawyer, there is great substance in what those wise folks are saying.