The Georgia Chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA-GA) awarded Jay Rollins its prestigious Advocacy Award for 2022, for a career dedicated to mentoring and educating other employment lawyers and making them better advocates for working people. Jay, who has been practicing law for 35 years, acquired his passion for giving back to the legal community when he began his legal career clerking for the Honorable Duross Fitzpatrick in the Middle District of Georgia for 2 years. Since then, Jay has considered mentoring and educating other attorneys one of his key professional responsibilities. His legal career is replete with dedication and commitment to giving back in many arenas – none more evidenced than by his continuing efforts to provide assistance, encouragement and education to NELA-GA lawyers, so that they can better advocate for workers.
The mentorship program worked by pairing NELA-GA members who were seasoned employment attorneys (at least 15 years of practice) one-on-one with members “less seasoned” in the employment law arena, in order to foster an individualized opportunity to learn. NELA-GA members had to apply for the program and make a one-year commitment to it. The NELA Mentorship Program consisted of training sessions led by the mentors on substantive topics specifically geared to and chosen by the mentees, as well as monthly meetings between mentors and mentees. These meetings provided practical professional advice, including about operating within a firm, or setting up a new office or going paperless, or how to handle difficult opposing counsel.
The NELA-GA mentorship program exploded with success and after more than 40 members participated in the program over 2 years, Jay and NELA-GA decided it was time to use the same model and establish a mentorship program for the State Bar’s Labor & Employment Law Section. Jay worked with a management side colleague to adapt the program to all members of the labor and employment law section of the Georgia Bar. The Mentorship Academy of the Labor and Employment section of the bar is currently in its 6th year and has impacted far more attorneys than ever expected. The Academy operates in much the same way as the NELA program, focusing on professional development and fostering collegiality among all types of labor and employment lawyers. It, but has expanded to include the Judges and Magistrate Judges of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The Judges hold mock summary judgment arguments among the mentees, preside over mock mediations, speak to the group on topics of real relevance to the practice of employment law, and provide for a real camaraderie among members of the bench and bar.
Although Jay was and still is at the helm of the State Bar’s Academy, he recognized that the cessation of the NELA Mentorship Program left a void at NELA, so he again put on his thinking cap and devised a continuing mentorship/educational program for NELA-GA to offer its members. Using the same structure of a year-long commitment by participants, and quarterly training sessions of 3 hours each, working with Julie Bracker and other NELA members, he created the NELA-GA Success Program. The program is based on a different theme each year, and has covered topics such as running a successful plaintiff-side law firm, summary judgment, discovery, case valuation and so much more. Each session is led by a different 2-person team of NELA-GA members with a special knowledge of the topic. Jay continues to work with Julie on selecting topics, schedules, speakers and participants, working towards getting the best possible education program in place each year for all NELA members.
Jay was toasted for receiving the Advocacy Award at NELA-Georgia’s annual award dinner held at Wahoo restaurant in Decatur, Georgia. Congratulations to partner Jay Rollins.