Saturday, November 18, 2017
Business

Hundreds of Florida attorneys seek help through new mentoring program

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Hundreds of lawyers are seeking guidance from their more experienced peers in the first weeks of a new program launched by the Florida Bar and its Young Lawyers Division.

At the receiving end are more than 500 lawyers who have volunteered to mentor early-career attorneys on issues ranging from unfamiliar legal areas to marketing small firms.

"What we're trying to create here is a virtual hallway," Bill Schifino Jr., Tampa-based president of the Florida Bar, said. When he began his career 30 years ago, "it was easy for me to walk down the hall and sit in someone's office" to kick around ideas on cases.

But such collaboration can be tough for many Florida lawyers today. A 2016 survey by the Florida Bar found 35 percent of Florida lawyers operate a solo firm — a one-lawyer shop. That means they need to curate their own professional network for advice, which is challenging for those just starting out. Another 30 percent of attorneys surveyed work in a firm with two to five attorneys. This makes collaboration easier, but can mean the number of areas of expertise within a firm is limited.

That's where Lawyers Advising Lawyers comes in. Attorneys seeking advice are matched up with a lawyer who is experienced in particular area of law. Mentors are required to have a minimum of five years experience with the subject they will advise on. Currently, the mentors have expertise in 50 areas of law.

Mentees aren't the only ones who benefit from mentorship. Interacting with young lawyers can help senior attorneys stay in touch with young lawyers' needs and learn how the next generation of lawyers operates. Additionally, it earns each mentor five credits annually towards the Florida Bar-required 33 continuing education credits every three years.

Zack Zuroweste, a Clearwater-based lawyer and the president-elect of the Young Lawyers Division, is a mentor with the program. He enjoyed coaching a recent law school grad on a probate case.

"We've all been new to this very challenging field," he said. "It's just nice to be able to give back to our profession."

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com. Follow @malenacarollo.

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