Suggested Mentoring Topics and Experiences

The following represent ideas for consideration by mentor groups. Some are specific activities; others are better suited for broad discussion. Some assume some practice experience; others are basic transition to practice experiences. This list is illustrative, not exhaustive. Your group should select specific topics to discuss and activities to undertake during the year and advise the mentoring committee of your choices.

Selected Topics For Mentor Groups

I. General

  • Hearsay exceptions
  • "So your client is in jail. Now what?"
  • Motion dockets and how to succeed at them
  • Bifurcation and trifurcation of cases
  • Construction contracts
  • Sanctions by state courts
  • Applications for attorney's fees awards
  • Bar exams and employment prospects
  • Presentation and discussion of hypothetical conflict of interest issues
  • Differences between civil and criminal proceedings
  • Privacy issues and the implications of social media for law practice

II. Ethical Problems

  • Common malpractice traps: how to recognize and avoid dangerous situations
  • Communications with clients-how to avoid a grievance by returning phone calls and sending copies
  • Ethical implications raised by social media for law practice
  • Client confidences, including communications over e-mail and cellular phones
  • Conflicts of interest-checking for, recognizing, avoiding and dealing with conflicts
  • Leaving a firm-how to protect yourself, including advising clients and withdrawing from cases
  • Client engagement and closing letters
  • Rule 11 and other sanctions
  • Ex pârté communications-judges, corporate adversaries, former employees, etc.
  • Opinion letters and audit responses regarding clients
  • Acting as local counsel-what to do when general counsel wants to completely control the litigation and your actions
  • Reconciling the duties to clients and to the court, e.g., what to do if your client lies either in a civil or criminal matter
  • Learning the unwritten rules of etiquette and civility between lawyers
  • Avoiding and dealing with grievances
  • Ethical issues in criminal cases

III. Legal Analysis and Reasoning/Legal Research and Writing

  • Legal research tools and techniques, including internet resources
  • Effective legal writing

IV. Transactional

  • Formation of legal entities
  • Negotiating and drafting legal contracts
  • Negotiating and drafting joint venture arrangements
  • Analyzing legal and regulatory issues relevant to contractual and joint venture arrangements

V. Client Relations

  • Client selection: interviews and case evaluation
  • How to deal with a difficult client
  • How to talk to a client about attorney's fees, including fee agreements, retainers and fee disputes
  • Trust fund accounts, including establishing, accounting/auditing, and use of interest proceeds
  • Setting and collecting fees
  • How to talk to your criminal client
  • How to talk to a complaining witness (not your client) in a criminal matter

VI. Litigation

  • E-discovery
  • Investigating the case
  • Case management
  • Drafting initial pleadings; sharing sample pleadings and forms
  • Drafting and responding to written discovery requests
  • Resolving discovery disputes
  • Preparing for, taking, and defending depositions
  • Selecting and using expert witnesses
  • Trial preparation, including organizing a trial notebook and preparing witnesses for trial
  • Trial practice-voir dire, opening statement, witness examinations, closing argument, evidence rules, expert witnesses
  • How to deal with judges, including judicial independence
  • Appellate practice
  • Oral argument
  • Local rules of procedure
  • Preparing trial briefs
  • Discovery obligations in criminal matters

VII. Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR") and Negotiation

  • Forms of ADR, including mediation, binding and non-binding arbitration, high-low arbitration, early neutral evaluation, court-annexed arbitration and summary jury trials
  • Preparing for mediation and arbitration
  • Negotiation and settlement, including strategies and settlement documentation
  • Negotiating pleas in criminal cases
  • Preparing for and participating in civil case negotiations

VIII. Organization and Management of Legal Work

  • The economics of law practice
  • Preparing a business plan
  • Setting up and managing law practice
  • Discussing career opportunities
  • Reconciling job expectations with actual experience
  • Addressing salary and working conditions within your firm
  • Developing time management skills
  • Communicating with other lawyers and staff
  • Marketing/maintaining the balance between business and law

Selected Activities and Experiences

I. Bar Activities

  • Meeting court personnel
  • Lawyer referral and pro bono opportunities
  • Professional organizations, including introducing protégés to colleagues in such organizations and how to get involved

II. Observation Experiences

  • Observation of oral arguments before various courts with subsequent discussion of the arguments
  • Observation of trials with subsequent discussions
  • Observation of mentors and protégés in court
  • Observation of mentors and protégés in ADR

III. Work/Life Balance and Career Planning

  • Ways to maintain a healthy work/life balance and deal with stress in practice
  • Warning signs and dealing with substance abuse
  • Long-term career objectives and how best to achieve them