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Women’s Bar Association is looking for more mentees for mentorship program

More judges and attorneys looking to get involved second time around

August 2, 2019 Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association created a Mentorship Committee about one year ago that paired up seven judges and lawyers with more inexperienced attorneys as part of a mentorship pilot program.

The program was so successful that now co-Chairs Madeline Kirton and Natoya McGhie are looking to keep it going and even expand it.

“We started off with seven mentors and mentees which we felt was a manageable amount,” Kirton said. “It was a pilot program and we wanted to start off small so that we could be sure that the mentors were accessible to the mentees. It was beneficial to do that the first time through. This year, we want to expand it. We still want to keep it a manageable number, but we think we can at least extend it to 12 spots or more.”

The biggest problem they had, though, was finding mentees, young attorneys who are looking for guidance in their careers. Four judges participated last year, but at least two couldn’t because there weren’t enough people interested in joining the program.

Mentors and mentees from the first meeting that took place in October 2018.

“Mentorship is so special to me because it’s how I got involved in this bar, it’s how I’ve found jobs,” McGhie said. “It’s why I really wanted to get involved with this.”

McGhie explained that it can be tough reaching out to younger attorneys because they feel like they can get the same networking opportunities by using LinkedIn or other social media. And McGhie admitted that LinkedIn can be useful, but she explained that most of the breaks she’s had in her career came from face-to-face networking that isn’t available through social media.

“I get it,” she said. “Bar associations can be intimidating. I think the first time I came to a bar association event I was so nervous that I don’t think I even breathed. But you get over that pretty quickly when you see the types of people at BWBA events. Now I look back and I realize that I grew up in this bar association.”

The program is fairly simple. The BWBA will host an initial interest meeting in the fall that anyone looking for, or to be, a mentor is asked to attend. Mentees fill out an application so that the co-chairs can properly match them with a mentor that can help them with their specific career goals and who they will get along with, personality-wise. After mentors and mentees are paired up, the rest is up to them.

“It’s up to the mentees to put in the work to get the most out of it, but we have excellent mentors,” Kirton said. “We gave a letter of introduction telling them who the mentor was and they had to reach out to them. We just touched base to make sure there were no issues.”

Three of the seven mentees from last year, Danielle Ciraola, Annie Tsao and Lauren Arnel, not only met regularly with their mentors, but they also began attending other BWBA events regularly.

“The ice has been broken so people start showing up to all of our events,” Kirton said.

Past President Carrie Anne Cavallo also explained that because of the Mentorship Committee, a few judges have begun attending events hosted by the BWBA’s Young Lawyers Committee as well.

“This is not just about legal stuff,” Cavallo said. “If they have a personal question, they should be able to go to their mentor. All of us come from mentor relationships and we still have people that we still go to as mentors. We were hoping to emulate that with this program. It shouldn’t just be a one-year, short-term relationship that we’re setting up.”

Kirton and McGhie gave a lot of credit to Cavallo for helping them set up the committee and giving them the autonomy to let it grow. They also explained that new President Meryl Schwartz has also been very supportive, which they expect will help it grow in its second year.

“We owe a lot to Carrie Anne for helping us set this up, and also to Meryl for continuing to support it,” McGhie said. “We also have to extend our thanks to Judge Richard Montelione for his generosity in helping us to host a closing event where we thanked everyone for participating.”

Last year’s mentors included Judge Montelione, as well as judges Hon. Heela Capell, Hon. Theresa Ciccotto and Hon. Connie Mallafre Melendez. Attorneys Lisa Lewis, Nancy Wasserstein and Arlene Boyd were also mentors.

The program is free, but those interested in participating must be BWBA members or be willing to join the bar association. However, memberships are free for law school students and only $85 per year for attorneys with five years of experience or less.

Anyone interested in being involved with the Mentorship Committee, either as a mentor or mentee, is asked to email [email protected] or to attend a roller skating party that the BWBA’s Young Lawyers Committee will host at Pier 2 at Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sept. 5.

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