Harry V. Booth–Judge Henry A. Politz American Inn of Court Puts Mentoring First
The Bencher—January/February 2018
By Judge Mark L. Hornsby
Managing one of the largest American Inns of Court in the country presents a unique challenge: How does the Inn effectively mentor its youngest members, who may feel overwhelmed or lost during their first few years as an Inn member? The Harry V. Booth and Judge Henry A. Politz Inn of Court in Shreveport, Louisiana, approaches that challenge in several distinct ways.
First, each Inn year begins with a mandatory new member orientation at which all new members are educated about the history of both the American Inns of Court organization as well as our Inn. The Inn’s executive committee presents a PowerPoint presentation to highlight the attendance requirements and other obligations of all members. Each new member is introduced to the others in attendance, including the members of the Executive Committee, the Mentoring Committee, and the Outreach Committee. The Inn’s emphasis on mentoring new members is also highlighted during the orientation, which is followed by a welcome reception, where all Inn members are invited to socialize and get to know the new members.
Second, each first- and second-year associate of the Inn is paired with a volunteer master or barrister who is responsible for making sure his associate (mentee) feels welcome and engaged in our Inn.
The Inn members who serve as mentors are referred to as “captains” to avoid any confusion with our Inn members who serve as mentors in the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Transition Into Practice (TIP) mentoring program; all of the trained TIP mentors in northwest Louisiana are Master members of our Inn. The TIP program is very formal and requires our mentors to take their mentees to depositions, trials, hearings, jails, and the like. As each task in the TIP program is completed, both the mentor and mentee “check the box” on their paperwork and move on to the next requirement.
The Booth-Politz Inn’s mentoring program is designed to complement, not duplicate, the state bar’s mentoring program. Our program offers the captain and the associate the flexibility to determine how best to achieve our mentoring objectives. Captains are given a list of suggested activities that include contacting their associate to confirm their attendance at upcoming Inn meetings, sitting with their associate during Inn functions, introducing their associate to other Inn members, discovering why their associate joined the Inn, and explaining the history and purpose of the American Inns of Court. There are also more practical suggestions, such as explaining investigative services available locally, pointing out local pro bono opportunities, offering to get the associate involved in other local professional organizations, and explaining the unwritten rules of local practice that may otherwise take years of experience to learn.
The third way our Inn reaches out to associates is to invite them to participate in our Chambers Lunch and Masters Lunch series. These lunches are open to all associates, not just those who are paired with a captain. For every month during the Inn year (except December), our Inn has scheduled an informal Chambers Lunch with a state or federal judge. The lunch is held in the judge’s chambers, and attendance is limited to the first 8–10 associates who submit their RSVP. The mentoring committee members handle the email notices and RSVPs. The hosting judge simply makes arrangement for the food. All expenses of the lunch are reimbursed by the Inn.
The Masters Lunch series is handled much the same way, except that an Inn master hosts the lunch to engage the associates about a particular legal topic. For example, the topic for the Masters Lunch for October 2017 was “Mediations: Do’s and Don’ts.” The lunch was hosted by a retired state court judge who is active in local mediation practice. Other scheduled Masters Lunch topics include: “Bankruptcy: What All New Lawyers Need to Know”; “Keys to Evaluating a Personal Injury Case”; and “Taking Better Depositions”. The masters are given the flexibility to discuss any aspect of their assigned topic so that the discussions may center on the questions or interests of the associates in attendance.
While a number of our regularly scheduled Inn meeting programs are approved for CLE, the Chambers Lunches and Masters Lunches are not. Our Inn prefers that the small-group lunch discussions center more on the associates than on the hosting judge or master. In our view, CLE lunch programs might become too lecture-oriented and would not fulfill our ultimate goal—engaging with the associates in an informal lunch setting.
The fourth way our Inn mentors its associates is by assigning all associates to teams for the preparation of one of our monthly Inn programs. Each team includes several judges, masters, barristers, and associates, with associates taking the lead role in the preparation and presentation of the team’s program.
Judges are an important component of our mentoring program. We are pleased to have 22 state and federal judges (active and retired) who faithfully attend Inn and team meetings and assist their teams in the presentation of their teams’ program. We are especially proud that Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and president of the American Inns of Court Board of Trustees, is a charter member of our Inn and remains an active member despite his numerous other responsibilities.
Finally, our Inn organizes guided tours of local courts, jails, agencies, and other resources, such as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Shreveport Satellite Library inside the Tom Stagg Federal Building and U. S. Courthouse. The tours are set on different dates and times to accommodate as many associates as possible.
The 2017–2018 Inn year will be a busy year for our Inn’s associates. To keep up with events, each associate was provided a mentoring calendar for the term. The calendar sets forth the dates and locations of all Inn meetings and identifies the date, location, and host for each of the Chambers and Masters Lunches. The mentoring committee also sends out reminders about upcoming lunches.
At the end of each Inn term, all associates are asked to complete a survey regarding their Inn of Court experience. The Inn takes the survey results seriously in formulating programming and mentoring for the next term.
Mentoring in the Booth-Politz Inn is incorporated into every aspect of our organization. Through our mentoring program we will continue to strengthen our Inn and help provide our young members with the experiences, relationships, and skills necessary to achieve excellence in both their personal and professional lives.
Mark L. Hornsby is the U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Louisiana, Shreveport Division. He is a past-president of the Booth-Politz AIC in Shreveport, Louisiana.
© 2018 Judge Mark L. Hornsby. This article was originally published in the January/February 2018 issue of The Bencher, a bi-monthly publication of the American Inns of Court. This article, in full or in part, may not be copied, reprinted, distributed, or stored electronically in any form without the written consent of the American Inns of Court.