Tuesday, September 8, 2015

President's Message: Most Super Lawyers Are Super Mentors

By Carter Andersen

As we start the 2015-2016 Bar year, we might spend a little time reflecting on our mentoring relationships. First, I humbly suggest we all find the time to thank our mentors. Second, perhaps give some thought to how you are paying that mentoring forward to others.

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Bonnie St. John talk about mentoring relationships. As an amputee (she had her right leg amputated at age 5), an Olympic athlete (silver and two bronze medals in the 1984 Paralympics), a Rhodes Scholar, a best-selling author, a White House official, and an entrepreneurial businesswoman, St. John uses her life experiences to provide leadership training and career advancement tools and techniques worldwide to businesses and individuals.

On mentoring, St. John encourages her audiences to do a simple exercise. On one page, list everyone who has mentored you and helped you achieve your life and business goals. On a separate page, list the people whom you have mentored or helped as they grew and developed. Then simply compare the lists.

Are you giving back and making a difference for others the way that your mentors helped you? Are there things that you learned from your mentors that you have shared with others? If not, then it’s time to start. If so, then ask at least one more question. Do you and the people who mentored you look the same as or different from the people you are mentoring? If you and both your lists look the same – the same gender, the same race, and other similarities – perhaps it is time to open up the club? Be purposeful in your mentoring – not only in paying it forward – but in giving others a chance who might not have access to the mentoring that you received.

Several years ago, then Allstate Corporation’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Michele Coleman Mayes gave the keynote address at our member luncheon. Mayes, too, spoke about mentoring – and she advised that lawyers need mentors both inside and outside of their own law firms. Inside the firm, lawyers need substantive mentors to give them work and teach them how to practice law. Outside the firm, lawyers need a helping hand or sometimes a little confidential advice.

I recently noticed that several of my mentors – both inside and outside of my firm – all were included in the 2015 Florida Super Lawyers. I doubt that is a coincidence because I believe that most super lawyers are also super mentors. But I want to recognize and publicly thank just a few of those mentors.

First, I want to thank the lawyers who hired me at Bush Ross 13 years ago and have mentored me ever since – Jeff Warren, Ed Savitz, and John Giordano. They have each taught me so much about the law and lawyering, and I am grateful that in addition to helping me develop as a lawyer, they also taught me life and business lessons of leadership, faith, and service. I share with them the belief that it is a true blessing to get to know other people in this world, and to have them as mentors is a true blessing to me. It is no surprise to me that Jeff Warren’s leadership and mentoring of others landed him on the cover of 2015 Florida Super Lawyers.

Two lawyers outside my firm who are both Florida Super Lawyers and have been super mentors to me are Bill Schifino Jr. and Ben Hill IV. Bill has been that mentor to me outside the firm, who has given generously of his time to me with a helping hand and the career or practice advice I needed at important times. All Florida lawyers will get to see Bill’s great leadership these next two years as he serves as president-elect and then president of The Florida Bar!

And particularly in this last year, Ben Hill IV mentored me personally and by his example of lifting up others while serving as president of our Bar association. Ben accomplished so much from his focus on military and veterans issues to celebrating our judiciary in a time of great judges retiring and great new judges taking the bench and leading the Thirteenth Circuit! While leading our Bar to new levels of accomplishment in so many areas and inspiring so many of our members to do great things, Ben also took the time to teach and show me the things I needed for the year ahead. I am quite sure Ben has a strong future leadership role in our community, state, and profession, and I look forward to supporting him along the way!

So I do humbly suggest that we all might reflect on our mentoring relationships, thank our mentors, and make sure we are paying that mentoring forward to others.