JuneReport - page 4

June 2013 CBA REPORT
president’s brief
Inn of Court, a fundamental principle of
which is sharing experiences and insights
between seasoned members and less
experienced practitioners.
I would suggest, however, that while
mentoring is critical and essential, it’s
not enough. There’s a new resource out
there that everyone is talking about —
the sponsor.
Think of mentors as the friendly
guides who dispense helpful information,
offering up input and advice to mentees.
Sponsors, on the other hand, are defined
by their organizational clout and ability
to open doors; they will personally advo-
cate for a cause, project or promotion on
a protégé’s behalf. Mentoring prepares
people to move up, while sponsorship
makes it happen.
Legal sponsors can advance their
protégés in myriad ways, including
expanding their perception of what they
can do, connecting them with senior
leaders, promoting their visibility, fa-
cilitating internal and external contacts,
and connecting them to career advance-
ment opportunities. Because it requires
spending one’s own political capital
and putting your own credibility on the
line, however, sponsoring someone is
far riskier than mentoring them. Conse-
quently, a sponsor must really believe in
and care about their protégé.
The sponsor/protégé relationship goes
both ways. Protégés benefit from having
someone pulling them into new roles
and opening doors they might not have
known existed. But sponsors benefit too
— gaining leadership skills, establish-
ing reputations as discerning leaders,
and contributing to their organizations’
n 1762, George Wythe, one of the
most distinguished attorneys in
colonial America, was asked to take
on a particularly promising recent Col-
lege of William and Mary graduate as an
apprentice in his law office. Wythe agreed
and, for the next five years, provided
Thomas Jefferson with an extraordinary
education that equipped him not only to
practice law, but also gave him the intel-
lectual and political leadership that the
new nation would so desperately need.
Wythe used his mentorship of Jef-
ferson to try something different. Under
Wythe’s guidance, Jefferson not only
read the standard legal texts of the day
and attended court to watch lawyers in
action, but studied the theory of govern-
ment, history, moral philosophy and
ethics. Jefferson and Wythe forged a close
intellectual and personal friendship, and
Jefferson embraced his mentor’s zeal for
republicanism as the American colonies
marched steadily towards independence.
In 1776, Jefferson drew upon his years of
readings and discussions with Wythe to
draft the Declaration of Independence.
Mentoring is a time-honored practice
that is widespread throughout the legal
profession. A first-of-its-kind, in-depth
study of lawyer mentoring programs
recently found that 69 percent of law-
yers surveyed currently participate
as a mentee in either a formal and/or
informal mentoring relationship. Since
its inception in 2006, more than 2,500
newly admitted lawyers have participated
in the Ohio Supreme Court’s Lawyer to
Lawyer Mentoring Program alone. Lo-
cally, more than 100 lawyers participate
annually in the Potter Stewart American
By Jean Geoppinger McCoy
So, how does one get a sponsor? Build
on mentoring relationships — sponsor-
ships often arise from deep and strong
mentoring connections. Identify higher-
ups who inspire you. “You don’t really
choose a sponsor. They have to choose
you.” But you can improve your chances
by first asking yourself who it is in the
organization whose track record im-
presses you, and whose leadership style
you’d like to emulate. Then try to stand
out and get to know that person. When-
ever possible, let a potential sponsor see
you in action. “It helps… to keep an eye
out for opportunities to work closely with
[a senior attorney] you’d like to impress.
You’re more likely to attract that person
as a sponsor if he or she is very directly
familiar with your work and has seen
your performance firsthand.” Ask. “The
most direct approach sometimes works,
but don’t ask too many times. And before
you ask, think strategically about it and
choose someone who might be able to
help you move in any of several direc-
tions, depending on how circumstances
change and different opportunities
arise.” And always be authentic and
This is the first of a series of articles
in which I hope to identify ways in which
we might all serve the profession. I’d be
thrilled to hear your ideas, thoughts and
suggestions —
or (513) 241-3685. With thanks to the
College of William and Mary, Heather
Foust-Cummings, Ph.D. (Catalyst), Anne
Fisher (CNN Money) and Kenneth O.C.
Imo (WilmerHale).
Geoppinger McCoy is the 2013-2014 president of the
Cincinnati Bar Association.
Are you a mentor?
Now be a sponsor.
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