The Georgia Bar Association is the organization that initially licenses and then monitors all attorneys in the state to insure they have taken the proper continuing education courses and stayed in good standing (no discipline) each year. No practice section of the Bar has ever had any type of focused, one-on-one mentoring program linking experienced attorneys with new or less experienced lawyers in a particular expertise. That changed this past year, with the help of our very own Jay Rollins.
Jay has been a leader in the Labor & Employment Law Section of the Georgia Bar for many years. Recently, he has been exploring with other leaders of the section the idea of establishing a section-wide mentoring program. Jay has long been a proponent of mentoring programs for attorneys, and helped implement such a program for attorneys who belong to the Georgia Chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA-GA). This year, Jay, and the other leaders of the Labor and Employment section established the Mentorship Academy. The Academy paired 16 seasoned employment attorneys with 16 attorneys with 3 or less years of practice in this specialized area of the law. Schwartz Rollins partner Debra Schwartz, who served as a mentor in the NELA-GA program, was one of the individuals selected by the Mentorship Academy Board to be a mentor in this inaugural year.
Mentors and mentees signed a participation pledge, promising to meet one-on-one each month from September to May and to attend four structured group sessions throughout the year. Although sample talking points were offered for the one-on-one meetings, the mentors and mentees were free to talk about anything concerning their employment practice, their role as an attorney or any other matter that would benefit them professionally. More than one mentee commented on the benefits of having a senior attorney on-call for honest answers to sticky situations and for their unique perspective of an outside mentor on his or her professional growth. Guest speakers attended the group sessions which were presented by federal judges and seasoned employment attorneys.
The Academy also held numerous net-working events. The grand finale of the year, held on June 14, 2017, at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, was a fun and fitting ending to the Academy’s inaugural year (see attached article). At the close of its first year, the program has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Although Jay tried to downplay his role in the success of the Academy, his vision, guidance, and hard work helped make the Georgia Bar Association’s first mentorship program a model for other Sections.