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  • Matchmaker: Mentorship Program Mutually Beneficial for Lawyers on Both Sides

    In a mentor/mentee relationship, it's not just the mentee who benefits, say Jill Sopha and Kristen Hardy, who have become friends as well as colleagues. Learn about the connection they made through the State Bar's Ready.Set.Practice. mentoring program.

    Shannon Green

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    Jill Sopha and Kristin Hardy

    Oct. 3, 2018 – A young lawyer was looking for someone with in-house counsel experience. Another lawyer hadn’t yet realized how much she could offer a young attorney – and how much she would receive in return.

    Last year, when she heard of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s mentoring program, Ready.Set.Practice., Kristen Hardy of Rockwell Automation Inc., Milwaukee, didn’t hesitate to sign up.

    “I thought this would be the perfect chance to meet someone new and soak up their knowledge in the process,” Hardy said. “Everyone at every stage of their career can benefit from the mentee/mentor relationship,” Hardy said.

    Jill Sopha, with Sopha Mediation LLC in Pewaukee, responded immediately when asked to become a mentor.

    Sopha had experience Hardy needed. In addition to experience as in-house counsel, she has also worked as an outside counsel, a self-employed employment attorney mediator, and an adjunct professor at Marquette University Law School.

    Hardy admits she was nervous, at first, before meeting Sopha for the first time. She envisioned that the experience would be intimidating and require a lot of time. Instead, she found a new friend and colleague. “We share a lot of the same interests, including having a passion for volunteering. And we both teach as adjunct professors at Marquette Law School,” Hardy said.

    Expanding Networks – for Mentor and Mentee

    The time as a mentor, says Sopha, is very well spent.

    org sgreen wisbar Shannon Green is communications writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. She can be reached by org sgreen wisbar email or by phone at (608) 250-6135.

    “Being a mentor provides the opportunity for me to share my knowledge, experience, and wide range of contacts – in whatever manner of benefit or interest to Kristen,” Sopha said.

    When Hardy was working on a particularly difficult project, Sopha offered practical tips. "She pointed me in a better direction. Having the chance to bounce ideas off an attorney who has also worked in-house is truly invaluable,” Hardy said.

    Hardy attended a mediation – a new experience for her. They both became involved with each other's networking and volunteer events, and they celebrated each other's achievements.

    “Jill has been so gracious with her advice, listening ear, and perspective,” Hardy said. “It has been wonderful getting to know her.”

    Hardy, realizing the benefit from both sides of a mentor/mentee relationship, become a mentor herself to a high school student through the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association’s mentoring program.

    The best benefit for Sopha: getting to know Hardy. “She is a super-star young attorney, who has an amazing resume of diverse experiences,” Sopha said.

    Sopha attended Hardy’s induction as president of the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers (WAAL), where she met new colleagues and had the opportunity to reconnect with others.

    “I’m always happily surprised with how much I get in return from the process,” Sopha said.

    A Flexible Program

    Ready.Set.Practice. is a voluntary program that matches new lawyers with experienced mentors to assist with law practice management, effective client representation, and career development. The program’s success is built on the foundation of volunteer mentors and is always in search for mentors from throughout Wisconsin from all backgrounds and practice areas.

    Mentor and mentees sign up to participate for one calendar year. The commitment takes as much time as the pair wishes to make it.

    “The activities are entirely up to the mentor and mentee. The program can be as little or as much of a time commitment as the pair chooses,” said Bryant Park, who coordinates the State Bar program. “This flexibility allows them to maximize their time together, meeting as often as is practicable. Past mentors and mentees said they spent between 30 minutes to two hours per month. Mentees are instructed to work around their mentor’s schedules and are mindful of their availability.”

    The program is a great way for both mentors and mentees to develop their network and make connections that will benefit their careers.

    Seeking Mentors

    The State Bar’s Ready.Set.Practice. mentoring program needs mentors for 2019.

    Hardy advises both mentees and mentors to sign up. “It’s always a good idea to meet different people in the legal community, and this program gives you that opportunity,” she said. “It’s up to you and your mentor/mentee to make the most of it, but the State Bar definitely puts you on the right track.”

    Sopha’s advice to anyone considering becoming a mentor: “Do it! It’s been a really fun and fulfilling experience.”

    About the Program - Apply by Nov. 16

    The program runs the calendar year, from January to December 2019.

    Candidates for mentees and mentors are selected based on:

    • Reason for wanting to participate in the program;

    • Level of commitment to serving as a resource for future program participants; and

    • Geographic and background diversity to establish a strong foundation for the program.

    Mentors and mentees who sign up for the year-long program will watch a short webinar training and receive a handbook.

    Sign up by filling out the application at www.wisbar.org/readysetpractice.

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