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  • June 19, 2019

    Outstanding Mentor, Young Lawyer: 'Don't Wait to be a Mentor'

    Stacy Alexejun and Laurna Kinnel are recognized as "outstanding" by the Young Lawyers Division. Together, they have a message: Don't wait to mentor those who follow you into the profession.

    Shannon Green

    June 19, 2019 – These two Wisconsin lawyers, recognized as “outstanding” by the State Bar of Wisconsin Young Lawyers Division, have a message: Don’t wait to mentor those who enter the profession after you.

    Outstanding Mentor: ‘Don’t Wait to be a Mentor’

    Keep your door open, and don’t wait to be a mentor: That’s the advice of Stacy Alexejun of Quarles & Brady in Madison.

    Alexejun is the 2019 recipient of the State Bar of Wisconsin Young Lawyers Division’s Outstanding Mentor Award.

    Stacy Alexejun

    Ameera Haider and Merisa Berlinger, junior associates at Quarles & Brady in Madison, admit they are fortunate: Alexejun is their mentor, helping to guide them through the difficulties of learning the profession as litigators.

    “She’s someone to go to for candid and practical advice. If anyone has an issue, they know they can go to her,” Berlinger said.

    “Stacy helps me to find a way to deal with all the contrasting pressures of being a new associate,” Haider said. “She is showing me an example of who I want to be in the future.”

    “I know it’s a cliché, but I have an open door,” said Alexejun, who has been with her firm for seven years.

    There’s a reason: According to Alexejun, there tends to be a cycle in this profession where more senior attorneys have the attitude that “it was hard for me, so I’m going to make sure it’s hard for you, too.”

    “I want to break that cycle,” she said. “I want to make it easier for young associates, so they don’t have to repeat some of these same challenges.”

    It’s important, Alexejun said, especially for women. “When women associates have women who they can look up to, fewer women will be dropping out of private practice, especially as they get higher up in the profession. They will know that they can do it too.”

    Alexejun has not only been recognized by the Young Lawyer’s Division, but by her own firm, where she is the first associate recipient of the firm’s annual Star Mentor Award. “It’s an award meant for partners. But I’ve never understood why someone would think you have to wait until you are further along to be a mentor. Even a second-year associate can mentor a first-year associate and so on.”

    She hopes to pass the word along: “There’s no such thing as waiting to be a mentor,” Alexejun said. “We can all do it, every day.”

    Outstanding Young Lawyer: ‘Help Those Coming Up After You’

    Laurna Anne Kinnel of Fox, O'Neill & Shannon S.C., Milwaukee, is the 2019 Young Lawyers Division’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year.

    The award is given to a young lawyer who has made an impact in his or her practice area, and in service to the State Bar of Wisconsin and to the community.

    Laurna Anne Kinnel

    Just 10 years after graduating from Marquette University Law School, Kinnel has already made a positive impact on her firm and in her community, said Diane Slomowitz of Fox, O'Neill & Shannon S.C., Milwaukee, who nominated Kinnel.

    Kinnel, who practices in the areas of trademark law, complex commercial transactions, and family law, was instrumental in founding the new practice area in her firm on trademark law and management, expanding her firm’s services. She became a shareholder in 2014 – before completing five years of practice.

    “She has gone above and beyond to serve the Bar,” said Slomowitz, including serving as president and board member of the Milwaukee Young Lawyers Association, board member of the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association, and board member of the Society of Family Lawyers.

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

    In serving her community, she has been volunteering with the Milwaukee House of Peace’s Volunteer Legal Clinic from the time she was in law school, and she actively motivates others at her firm to join her in community service, Slomowitz said.

    Speaking at the Young Lawyers Conference in March, Kinnel, like Alexejun, encouraged young lawyers to look out for those who may need mentoring.

    “It’s tough being a young lawyer,” Kinnel said, “because there is so much more to learn than ever can be taught in law school.” It does get easier as you move along in your career, she said, so it is very important to remember what it felt like to be a young lawyer. “Be kind and helpful to those coming up behind you,” she said.

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