Colorado Supreme Court
Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel
Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.
Mentoring program turns 3 years old
The Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program accomplished a lot since 2013, learned some valuable lessons and is excited about moving forward in the future.
By JOHN BAKER
The Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP) turns three years old this month, and our birthday seems an opportune time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, the lessons we’ve learned and where we need to go in the coming years.
When I was selected to run the new statewide mentoring program in February 2013, Colorado had four pilot projects on the Front Range. Now there are almost 30 diverse and distinct programs throughout the state. CAMP has programs now in 18 of the 22 judicial districts — from the eastern plains, through the ski towns, to the western slope of Colorado.
Along with those distinct programs, CAMP has worked to promote diversity and inclusiveness in the legal profession, we’ve learned that mentoring is not just for trial attorneys, and we’ve pushed to reach the state’s underserved legal communities.
Big steps in three years
CAMP co-sponsors its 30 mentor programs with local bar associations, Inns of Court, law firms, government law offices, and other legal organizations. Each of the CAMP programs is distinctive in character (and sometimes in structure) to meet local needs and cultures. Some co-sponsoring organizations adopted the CAMP “12-month CLE Credit Structure,” which suggests activities and discussion points for the mentor and mentee.
(See the CAMP website’s current list of programs.)
Other local organizations customized their programs, picking and choosing some, but not all, of the CAMP structure. Some chose to make their programs less formal and more organic. The CAMP mission under Rule 255 C.R.C.P. is to support and promote all types of lawyer mentoring in Colorado; whether organic, informal, formal, or CAMP structured.
Mentoring is for everyone
One of the key lessons learned over the first three years is that mentoring is not just for trial lawyers. Traditional legal mentoring has always been a part of the trial lawyer realm. Due to demand from newly admitted attorneys looking to establish a transactional law practice or to seek in-house counsel positions with businesses, CAMP had to develop a transactional and in-house attorney mentoring program structure. See the CAMP Mentoring Plan Template for Designing Your Own Program for Transactional and In-House Attorneys.
Instead of a field trip to the courthouse to meet court clerks and watch a trial, the mentors are encouraged to invite their mentees to Board of Directors meetings or real estate closings. Instead of discussing litigation and trial skills, the transactional lawyer mentoring program promotes discussions of topics like how to get along with in-house counsel, how to get along with outside counsel, how to work with the business managers and executives as clients, and how to negotiate a deal. As with the more trial law oriented CAMP programs, ethics and professionalism permeate the transactional program structures.
Promoting diversity and inclusivity
Recognizing that a diverse and inclusive legal profession needs to be promoted, CAMP has taken two important steps. First, it established co-sponsored mentoring programs with three of the specialty or affinity bar associations in Colorado, so far. Two other specialty bar associations are considering CAMP mentoring programs. See the current complete list of CAMP programs.
Second, CAMP has collaborated with Karen Hester, Executive Director of the Colorado-based Center for Legal Inclusiveness (CLI), to establish activities and discussion topics for mentors and mentees in all of the CAMP programs. Since some CAMP mentoring pairs are diverse by gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or generational differences, CAMP has developed “Boot CAMPs” for individual programs on mentoring across diversity. Topics for these CAMP activities include recognizing and overcoming unconscious or implicit bias’s held by many attorneys. For CAMP information about diversity and inclusiveness, please see the CAMP Mentoring Resource Center.
Off the beaten path
attorneys that come to CAMP to find a mentor hope to establish their law practice
along the I-25 or the I-70 corridors. Legal jobs in both of those geographic
areas are scarce. They do not want to leave the bright lights of the city
behind them. Often these young lawyers “hang out their own shingles” in
metropolitan Denver. Many struggle to make a living in these solo practices. There
is an alternative to this struggle!
CAMP has worked at establishing co-sponsored mentoring programs in all four corners of Colorado. In the process of developing these programs, CAMP has discovered that Colorado does have underserved legal communities that provide opportunities for these lawyers. Twice a year, Chief Justice Nancy Rice and I encourage these newly admitted attorneys to seek mentors through CAMP and join local bar associations in many of these underserved communities. Although the primary mission of CAMP does not include “job finding” for these young lawyers, helping them build their network through mentors will help them find employment, possibly outside of the I-25 & I-70 corridors.
I was honored to help CAMP grow from a small series of pilot projects into a robust resource for strengthening the legal profession in Colorado. I will be retiring from my position as CAMP Director later this year but I am confident that CAMP will continue to expand and change to meet the needs of new lawyers as they join the evolving legal profession.
John Baker is the Director of the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program. He practiced law in Colorado for almost 40 years. He is the former President and Executive Director of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and has served as the President of the Denver Bar Association.