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South Carolina Lawyer Mentoring Pilot Program

The Supreme Court has adopted a pilot mentoring program for new members of the South Carolina Bar. This pilot program, which will apply to a limited number of lawyers who are admitted after successfully completing the July 2006 Bar Examination, is designed to allow more experienced lawyers to assist new members of the bar in developing professional habits, practices and character.


2006-09-14-01 The Supreme Court of South Carolina

The Supreme Court of South Carolina

RE:   South Carolina Lawyer Mentoring Pilot Program


ORDER


The Chief Justice’s Commission on the Profession has submitted to this Court a South Carolina Lawyer Mentoring Pilot Program for consideration to assist beginning lawyers in their transition from student to professional.  This Court has reviewed the pilot program and is of the opinion that this program would be of great benefit to lawyers just commencing the practice of law in the formation of professional habits, practices, and character.  A copy of the proposed Pilot Program is attached hereto along with its attachments.  It is, therefore,

ORDERED that all persons who successfully complete the July 2006 bar exam and subsequently are admitted to the South Carolina Bar as their state of first admission, who are engaged in the active practice of law with their principal office in South Carolina, and who have last names beginning with the letters A through F will be required to participate in the Pilot Program.

IT IS SO ORDERED.   

s/Jean H. Toal                                    C.J.

s/James E. Moore                             J.

s/John H. Waller, Jr.                           J.

s/E.C. Burnett, III                                 J.

s/Costa M. Pleicones                        J.

Columbia, South Carolina
September 14, 2006


SOUTH CAROLINA LAWYER MENTORING PILOT PROGRAM

Objective of a Pilot Mentoring Program

The first years of a lawyer’s practice are a critical time for the formation of professional habits, practices, and character.  It is important that, during this time, a new lawyer receive appropriate guidance from a more experienced lawyer.  The more experienced mentor can assist with the transition of the new lawyer into practice, help the new lawyer in developing practices that are appropriate and ethical, and provide valuable guidance as to the development of healthy relationships with colleagues, clients, other counsel and parties, and the courts.  Although some lawyers already have mentors, the nature and quality of these experiences vary widely.  A uniform mandatory mentoring program offers the promise of a more thorough, universal, and meaningful mentoring experience.

The purposes of a pilot program are as follows: (1) to evaluate the effectiveness of the methods means used to recruit mentors; (2) to ascertain whether the proposed elements of a uniform mentoring plan are both appropriate and adequate for all types of legal practice; (3) to identify staff requirements for effective administration of the program; and (4) to identify any other issues that must be addressed in order to create and administer an effective mandatory mentoring program.  

Participants

Persons who successfully complete the July 2006 bar exam and subsequently are admitted to the South Carolina Bar as their state of first admission, who are engaged in the active practice of law with their principal office in South Carolina, and who have last names beginning with the letters A through F will be required to participate in the Pilot Program.   Each person participating in the program will be required to have a mentor who has been an active member of the South Carolina Bar for at least five years and is currently an active or retired member of the South Carolina Bar.

Requirements for Successful Completion of Program

Each new lawyer participating in the Pilot Program must successfully complete the pilot program by submitting to the South Carolina Bar, not later than December 31, 2007, a certificate signed by both the mentor and the new lawyer, listing all completed elements of the Uniform Mentoring Plan and explaining why any uncompleted elements could not be completed prior to the end of the pilot program.  During the pilot program, both the mentor and the new lawyer will be asked, in connection with their certification, to recommend additional components of a Uniform Mentoring Plan and to identify any elements of the Uniform Mentoring Plan that may not be appropriate to particular practice settings.  Failure to complete all elements of the proposed mentoring plan during the pilot program will not result in sanction of the participants, provided that the explanatory certificate set forth above is completed and filed in a timely manner.

Responsibilities of the Mentor and New Lawyer

During the pilot program, the mentor and new lawyer shall attempt to complete all activities set forth in the Uniform Mentoring Plan.   

A mentor will be expected to take an active interest in the professional development of the lawyer being mentored and to introduce the lawyer being mentored to members of the bar and judiciary.  The mentor must also discuss with the new lawyer specific expectations of professional responsibility and behavior and to assist the new lawyer in developing the professional and personal skills, values, and judgment necessary to establish and maintain positive professional relationships with clients, with the courts, with other parties and their counsel, and with colleagues in the lawyer’s own firm or office.  The mentoring relationship should be an example of a positive professional relationship.

Specific areas to be addressed in the mentoring relationship should include

The time required to fulfill these responsibilities will vary. A mentor, however, should expect to spend at least 3 hours per month in advising the new lawyer, including at least one meeting, in-person and not less than one hour in duration, each month.  Other contact may be by electronic means such as telephone or e-mail.  Each person should be cognizant of demands on the other’s schedule and attempt to find a mutually acceptable time for meetings. If there is a recurrent failure by either party to make time available for this purpose, or if other difficulties arise which cannot be resolved by the parties and which threaten the timely and effective completion of the mentoring program, the parties to the relationship (or either of them) should advise the Bar of the situation, and the Executive Director of the Bar shall have the discretion to appoint a new mentor or take other appropriate action to resolve the problem.

It is the responsibility of the lawyer being mentored to make every reasonable effort to complete all steps of the mentoring program in a timely manner.  Completion of the mentoring program should be viewed by the new lawyer as a serious opportunity for professional learning and self-improvement and not merely as a licensing requirement to be satisfied.  The success of a mentoring program depends upon the desire of those receiving the mentoring to learn the appropriate standards and expectations of the profession and to conform their behavior accordingly.  Self-discipline and a serious dedication to the pursuit of professionalism are necessary. 

To benefit from mentoring, the lawyer being mentored has a responsibility to seek guidance freely from the more senior lawyer with a willingness to consider seriously the advice of the mentor.  On those occasions when advice appears inconsistent with the new lawyer’s previous conceptions of appropriate behavior, the parties to the relationship should make every reasonable effort to address and resolve their differences in a responsible and professional manner. When a lawyer being mentored believes that the advice of a mentor is inadequate, inappropriate, or inconsistent with the lawyer’s professional responsibilities, the lawyer being mentored should discuss any concerns with the mentor.  Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the new lawyer to form his or her own judgment as to whether the advice given is appropriate and consistent with the lawyer’s professional responsibilities.

Advice Regarding Specific Legal Issues

In fulfilling his or her responsibilities as a mentor, a mentor may provide general advice and guidance to the new lawyer on how to resolve substantive or procedural legal issues.   However, it is not the purpose of the mentoring program to provide specific legal advice to the new lawyer or to provide the new lawyer with co-counsel in a legal matter. 

When a mentor is associated with the same law firm or office as the new lawyer, the mentoring relationship does not preclude the mentor from assisting the new lawyer in resolving a specific substantive or procedural legal issue.  The extent to which such advice or supervision occurs should be determined by the policies of the law firm or office.

When a mentor is not associated with the same firm or office as the new lawyer, the mentor should instruct the new lawyer at the outset of the relationship about the duty of the new lawyer not to share with the mentor confidential information about any representation.  If a new lawyer needs advice about a particular situation, the mentor may discuss with the new lawyer the general area of law at issue, without reference to the facts of a specific matter, and may direct the new lawyer to resources that may assist the new lawyer in finding the necessary information.  By virtue of acting as a mentor, the mentor does not undertake to represent the client of the new lawyer or assume any responsibility for the quality or timeliness of the work on a matter being handled by the new lawyer.  The lawyer being mentored remains solely responsible for the client’s matter.  If a mentor does consult with the new lawyer about a specific legal matter, however, both the mentor and the new lawyer must keep in mind that the same professional duties apply as would apply whenever two lawyers not in the same firm consult about a matter. 

When appropriate, the mentor should assist the new lawyer in obtaining specific legal advice as may be necessary or appropriate with regard to the establishment or management of a law office.

Selection and Training of Mentors

Each new lawyer required to participate in the pilot program will submit to the South Carolina Bar by December 15, 2006, on a form provided by the Bar, the name of a proposed mentor who has agreed to serve in that capacity or a request for appointment by the Bar of a mentor.  Generally, it is expected that a lawyer working in a law firm or office with other lawyers who are qualified to serve as mentors will select his or her mentor from that firm or office. 

The Bar shall also solicit qualified volunteer mentors and shall establish and maintain a list of those lawyers who are qualified and willing to serve as mentors.  If the new lawyer who requests appointment of a mentor is not working in a firm or office with other qualified lawyers, or if no lawyer in the firm or office of the new lawyer is willing or qualified to serve as a mentor, a mentor will be appointed by the Bar from the list of qualified volunteers.  In the latter instance, every effort should be made to designate a mentor from the same or a nearby geographic area with experience in a practice setting similar to that of the new lawyer.  

Mentors must be active or retired members of the South Carolina Bar with at least five [5] years experience in the active practice of law and should be able to assist the new lawyer in developing a style of lawyering that is compatible both with professional expectations and with the personality of the new lawyer.   It is preferable that mentors have experience with the court system, although it is understood that not all mentors will have litigation experience.  A lawyer without such litigation experience may nevertheless be an appropriate mentor if that lawyer has otherwise developed an understanding of appropriate behavior in a lawyer’s relationship with the court.  A lawyer may serve as an informal mentor for a number of lawyers, but should not serve simultaneously as designated mentor in the pilot program for more than two new lawyers.

Mentors should display, through their own conduct, an understanding of and commitment to ethical responsibilities and the prevailing expectations with regard to a lawyer’s appropriate professional behavior.  A mentor must have a good reputation for professional behavior and must never have been publicly reprimanded, suspended, or disbarred from the practice of law in any jurisdiction.  If, during the period of the pilot program, a lawyer appointed as a mentor is publicly reprimanded, suspended, or disbarred in any jurisdiction, the lawyer shall notify the Commission, and a replacement mentor will be selected.

The South Carolina Bar will develop and provide a two-hour orientation session that each mentor must attend.  The sessions will be offered at least once each during January and February 2007 .  Completion of the orientation will qualify for two hours of ethics MCLE credit.  The Bar shall keep a record of mentors attending the training.

If the mentor is initially in the same firm or office as the new lawyer and either the mentor or the new lawyer changes jobs during the pilot year, every reasonable effort should be made to maintain the mentoring relationship despite the move.  When maintenance of the relationship is not possible because one of the parties to the relationship has moved to a distant location or because of other extraordinary circumstances, the mentor or new lawyer shall notify the Bar, and that office may assign a substitute mentor or take such other measures as are appropriate.

CLE Credit for Mentors

Lawyers who fulfill all of their responsibilities as mentors during the pilot program (including submission of a completed Certificate of Completion – South Carolina Uniform Mentoring Plan) shall receive 4 hours of MCLE credit for calendar year 2007, in addition to any credit received for attending the two-hour mentor orientation program.


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CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION

SOUTH CAROLINA UNIFORM MENTORING PLAN

Name of Lawyer Being Mentored (Print): ____________________________________

For the Mentoring Period beginning November 2006 and ending December 2007.

            The undersigned participants in the South Carolina Lawyer Mentoring Program certify that the attached Uniform Mentoring Plan (Attachment A) accurately reflects the elements of the plan completed by them during the mentoring period set forth above.

            If any elements of the Uniform Mentoring Plan were not completed during the mentoring period, a statement is attached as Attachment B, explaining the reasons for having not completed those elements.

            Any recommendations or suggestions of the participants for changes in the Uniform Mentoring Plan or other aspects of the mentoring program are attached as Attachment C (Recommendations by Mentor) and/or Attachment D (Recommendations by Lawyer Being Mentored).

            The undersigned Mentor (___does/ ___does not) work in the same office or firm as the undersigned Lawyer Being Mentored.


MENTOR

Signature: ________________________

Print Name: ______________________

S.C. Bar Membership Number: _______

Date: ____________________________

LAWYER BEING MENTORED

Signature: ________________________

Print Name: ______________________

S.C. Bar Membership Number: _______

Date: ____________________________


Submit Completed Form by December 31,  2007 to:

South Carolina Bar
Attn: Kali Campbell Turner, Esquire
Post Office Box 608
Columbia, SC 29202-0608


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ATTACHMENT A

UNIFORM MENTORING PLAN

Date Of
Completion                 Activity to be Performed

 

A.  INTRODUCTION TO BAR AND LEGAL SYSTEM PARTICIPANTS

 


A1.  Meet at the Mentor’s office to become acquainted with each other.   If the new lawyer works in a different office than the Mentor, the mentor should introduce the new lawyer to other lawyers and staff at the Mentor’s office.  If they work in the same office, the Mentor should either provide introductions or ensure that they have already occurred.

 


A2. Attend a meeting together of a local bar association or similar lawyer’s organization and discuss opportunities to participate in the work of local, state, or national bar organizations.

 


A3. The Mentor should introduce the new lawyer to other lawyers in the community.

 


A4. The Mentor should escort the new lawyer on a tour of the local courts and, to the extent practicable, introduce the new lawyer to judges and court personnel.

 


A5. If the new lawyer is likely to undertake any criminal defense representation, the Mentor should escort or arrange for another lawyer to escort the new lawyer to the local jail and explain procedures for jail visits.  The Mentor should also introduce the new lawyer to local prosecutors and staff in the prosecutor’s office.

 


A6. The Mentor should acquaint the new lawyer with the court appointment process, with pro bono expectations, and with various legal services organizations that provide services to indigent persons.

 


B. GENERAL PROFESSIONAL VALUES, BEHAVIOR, AND EDUCATION

 


B1. Have a meaningful discussion of the Lawyer’s Oath and of the practical application of the concepts in the oath.

 


B2. Discuss the importance of continuing education throughout a lawyer’s career.

 


B3. Discuss customs, unwritten rules and other expectations of etiquette and behavior among lawyers and judges in the community.

 


C. AVOIDING COMMON ETHICAL/CIVIL LIABILITY PROBLEMS

 


C1. Discuss common reasons for the filing of grievances or malpractice complaints, especially negligence and conflicts of interest, and how to recognize and avoid common problems.  If the new lawyer works in a different office than the Mentor, the Mentor should advise the new lawyer to ensure that his or her office has an appropriate system to identify potential conflicts of interest.  If they work in the same office, the Mentor should ensure that the new lawyer understands how the firm’s conflict identification system operates.

 


C2. Discuss available resources to resolve complicated ethical issues, including, when applicable, the process for consulting a law firm’s ethics committee.

 


C3. Discuss how to address situations in which the new lawyer believes that another lawyer has committed an ethical violation or in which the new lawyer believes that he or she has been instructed to engage in unethical behavior.

 


C4. If the new lawyer is in-house counsel for a company or staff counsel for an agency, discuss the identity of the client and the duties owed to the entity.

 


C5. Discuss all applicable rules regarding trust account management and emphasize the importance of keeping accurate records of property of others held by the lawyer.  The Mentor should advise the new lawyer in detail as to when funds generally may be disbursed.  If the new lawyer works in a different office than the Mentor, the Mentor should advise the new lawyer to create appropriate trust accounts.  If they work in the same office, the Mentor should ensure that the new lawyer understands how the firm’s trust accounts operate.

 


C6. Discuss duties to supervise non-lawyer staff and discuss what activities a non-lawyer staff member or employee may engage in without undertaking the unauthorized practice of law.

 


C7. Discuss when and how it is appropriate to contact a judge’s office, with particular emphasis on avoiding impermissible contacts.  Also discuss the lawyer’s duty of confidentiality and common pitfalls regarding protection of the attorney-client privilege.

 


C8. As appropriate to the practice setting, discuss methods for creating accurate records of time spent on a client’s matter.

 

C9. Discuss time management skills and techniques as well as the desirable features of a calendaring or tickler system.

 


D. CARING FOR ONE’S SELF AND HANDLING PERSONAL ISSUES

 


D1. Discuss how to handle office politics and how to develop appropriate support systems of persons with whom the lawyer can discuss problems when they arise.

 


D2. Discuss the new lawyer’s long-term career objectives and how best to achieve them.  If appropriate to the practice setting, also discuss the importance of developing a long-term business plan.

 


D3. Discuss finding a balance between one’s personal and professional responsibilities.  Discuss the warning signs of substance abuse or depression and how to address those problems when they are manifested in oneself or in others.

 


D4. Discuss practical ways to manage long-term debt, including educational loans.

 


E. RELATIONSHIPS WITH CLIENTS AND OTHER PARTIES

 


E1. Discuss how to evaluate a matter and decide whether you should undertake the representation.  If in a prosecutor’s office, discuss the appropriate considerations in making charging decisions.

 


E2. If appropriate to the practice setting, discuss how to set and memorialize a fee and how to talk with the client about a fee for a matter.

 


E3. Discuss how to communicate with and involve a client effectively in a matter.  If in a prosecutor’s office, discuss appropriate interaction with victims.

 


E4. Discuss how to behave during a deposition and in court.  If a new lawyer participates in a deposition or court proceeding during the mentoring period, the mentor should either observe the new lawyer’s performance or discuss the experience with the new lawyer afterwards.

 


E5. Discuss appropriate negotiation techniques, focusing on expectations of behavior during negotiations as well as the effectiveness of various approaches.

 


E6. Discuss typical problems that may arise between a lawyer and client and how to avoid or deal with those situations.

 


E7. Discuss how to communicate effectively with counsel representing other parties in a matter.

 


E8. Discuss how to terminate a representation.


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ATTACHMENT B

EXPLANATION FOR NOT COMPLETING
CERTAIN ELEMENTS OF UNIFORM MENTORING PLAN

(This information is an important aspect of the evaluation of the pilot mentoring program.  The Attachment is not required if all elements of the Uniform Mentoring Plan were completed.  Additional sheets may be attached if necessary)

Element #          Reason for Non-Completion

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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ATTACHMENT C

RECOMMENDATIONS AND COMMENTS BY MENTOR

(This form may be used by the Mentor to provide recommendations or comments to those evaluating the pilot mentoring program.   Of particular interest to the evaluators are recommendations regarding the deletion or addition of elements in the Uniform Mentoring Plan.)


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ATTACHMENT D

RECOMMENDATIONS AND COMMENTS BY NEW LAWYER

(This form may be used by the New Lawyer to provide recommendations or comments to those evaluating the pilot mentoring program.   Of particular interest to the evaluators are recommendations regarding the deletion or addition of elements in the Uniform Mentoring Plan.)


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SAMPLE LETTER TO MENTOR AT BEGINNING OF PROGRAM PERIOD
[South Carolina Commission on the Profession Letterhead]

Dear _______________,

            This letter confirms your agreement to participate in the pilot South Carolina Lawyer Mentoring Program as a mentor for ______________________.  Your active participation is vital to the success of the program and the fulfillment of its goal of improving the transition of new lawyers into the profession, with a stronger understanding of the accompanying ethical and professional expectations.  At the end of the one-year mentoring period, your comments and recommendations regarding this pilot program will be vital to subsequent evaluation of the program and a decision by the Supreme Court as to whether the program should be made permanent.

            As a mentor, you must complete a two-hour mentor orientation program provided by the South Carolina Bar during January or February 2007.  Completion of the orientation program will qualify for 2 hours of MCLE credit during 2007.  

            Enclosed with this letter is a copy of the reporting form that you will be required to submit in December 2007.  During the mentoring period, you will be expected to complete with the lawyer being mentored each of the activities set forth in the Uniform Mentoring Plan, attached to that form.  If any activities are not completed, you will be asked to explain the omission of those elements.  A purpose of the pilot program is to ascertain which activities are feasible and appropriate to require and your explanations will be important in that determination.  Fulfillment of your mentoring obligations will also qualify for an additional 4 hours of South Carolina MCLE credit for 2007.

            We thank for your participation as a mentor.  If any questions arise during the year regarding the program, you should direct them to Kali Campbell Turner, Public Affairs Director, or Bob Wells, Executive Director of the South Carolina Bar, whose office is assisting in the administration of the pilot program.

                                                                                                Sincerely,


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SAMPLE LETTER TO LAWYER BEING MENTORED
[South Carolina Commission on the Profession Letterhead]

Dear _______________,

            As a newly admitted member of the South Carolina Bar, you have been selected to participate in a pilot South Carolina Lawyer Mentoring Program.  The goal of this new program is to assist your transition into the legal profession and to provide you with a stronger understanding of its accompanying ethical and professional obligations and expectations. 

            Enclosed are materials describing the program as implemented by the South Carolina Supreme Court. You should review those materials immediately.  If you work in a law firm or office with other lawyers who meet the qualifications to be a mentor as set forth in those materials, you may seek a mentor from among those qualified lawyers.  You should discuss the program with potential mentors and attempt to secure their consent to serve as a mentor.  They should be made aware that they will be required to complete a two hour orientation that qualifies for MCLE credit and that completion of their work as a mentor would qualify for an additional four hours of MCLE credit in 2007.

            If you prefer, you may select a qualified mentor who does not work with you or you may request that a mentor be appointed for you.  In any event, you must return the enclosed form to the South Carolina Bar by December 15, 2006, indicating the name of a mentor who has consented to serve in that role or requesting appointment of a mentor.

            Enclosed with this letter is a copy of the reporting form that you and your mentor will be required to submit in December 2007.  During the mentoring period, you will be expected to complete with your mentor each of the activities set forth in the Uniform Mentoring Plan, attached to that form.  If any activities are not completed, you will be asked to explain the omission of those elements.  A purpose of the pilot program is to ascertain which activities are feasible and appropriate to require and your explanations will be important in that determination. 

            If any questions arise during the year regarding the program, you should direct them to Kali Campbell Turner, Public Affairs Director, or Bob Wells, Executive Director of the South Carolina Bar, whose office is assisting in the administration of the pilot program.

                                                                                                Sincerely,


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SOUTH CAROLINA LAWYERING MENTORING PROGRAM
DESIGNATION OF MENTOR/REQUEST FOR APPOINTMENT OF MENTOR

Mentoring Period:  November 2006 to December 2007

Full Name of Newly Admitted

Lawyer to be Mentored: _______________________________________________

South Carolina Bar Number: _______________

Check the appropriate response:

_________   I have selected a mentor, who has agreed to serve in that capacity during the mentoring period.  The name and address of my proposed mentor is

                                                Name: __________________________________

                               Mailing Address: __________________________________

                                                            __________________________________

                                                            __________________________________

_________   I have not obtained a mentor and ask that one be appointed for me.

                                                       Signature:      _________________________________

Please print or type your name and address:        ______________________________

                                                                                    ______________________________

                                                                                    ______________________________

                                                                                    ______________________________

Submit Completed Form by December 15, 2006 to:

South Carolina Bar
Attn: Kali Campbell Turner, Esquire
Post Office Box 608
Columbia, SC 29202-0608