Sept. 20, 2023 – Nicole Swails isn’t a typical new lawyer. Just after earning her law degree, she became in-house counsel – at a company she’s worked at for more than 16 years. She also owns a solo practice.
Swails is general counsel and director of Legal & Administrative Affairs with Coating Place, Inc., in Verona, where she practices corporate law in the pharmaceutical industry. A Wisconsin lawyer since early 2022, she also runs Swails Law, LLC, where she practices estate planning and business law.
Swails earned her law degree at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, in Saint Paul, while working full-time in Verona. “I didn’t have many professors available to help me with Wisconsin law questions, and only had a handful of classmates who planned to practice in Wisconsin,” Swails noted.
She learned that seeking advice from colleagues is difficult when you’re the only in-house attorney. “I was excited to begin practicing and have a position as an attorney, but I felt a bit isolated and alone which then spiraled into impostor syndrome and panic,” Swails said. “And running your own legal practice is very intimidating.”
Madison-area attorneys Sam Wayne and Nicole Swails, a mentor-mentee pair with the State Bar’s mentorship program, recently met at Madison Chocolate Company in Madison. “Who doesn’t love chocolate and coffee?” Swails said.
A Perfect Match for Her Aspirations
Last fall, she received an email about the State Bar of Wisconsin mentorship program Ready. Set. Practice. “I signed up that same day. I was so excited – but also paranoid that I wouldn’t get a mentor,” Swails said.
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.
She soon realized her match was perfect. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the program coordinators review applications in detail and thoughtfully match mentors and mentees, because they matched me with a mentor who could help me with the specific aspirations I desired,” Swails said.
She was matched with Sam Wayne of Madison. Wayne ran his own law firm for six years before joining Neider & Boucher, S.C., where he practices business law. “Sam has become a fantastic colleague and friend who can give me advice and insight from many different perspectives,” Swails said.
Wayne’s how-to advice and tips are “truly priceless,” Swails said. “It’s reassuring to know that I have someone I can contact when I feel unsure about a legal conclusion or simply need to bounce ideas off of. It’s great to have that industry support but also to have someone who’s been in the field and can give you general ‘life as a lawyer’ advice, too.”
“The legal community is very welcoming to new attorneys, and this program is further proof of that. I’m so thankful to have a mentor and friend who I know is just an email or phone call away,” Swails said.
Her Advice: Sign Up Now as Mentor or Mentee – Here’s How
Ready. Set. Practice. is a volunteer mentoring program that matches lawyers in need with experienced mentors who can assist them with law practice management, effective client representation, and career development. The program also matches law students with practicing lawyers.
“Joining Ready. Set. Practice. was a great decision, as it provided me with a resource where I can ask any question – even the ones that seem obvious – without feeling judged, and that’s an amazing thing when, as a new attorney, you’re already struggling with a bit of impostor syndrome!” Swails said.
Currently, the program is open for applications through Oct. 15. The program runs the calendar year, from January to December 2024. If you are an experienced lawyer interested in sharing your knowledge with a colleague, this program is for you.
If you are a lawyer just starting out, a law student looking, or an experienced lawyer who seeks guidance in a new practice area, apply to be a mentee. Law students are encouraged to sign up.
Participants in the program have access to many materials and resources designed to save time and assist in creating a plan and goals. For more information, visit the Ready. Set. Practice. resource page on WisBar.org.
Sign up by Oct. 15. Fill out the application at wisbar.org/readysetpractice – either:
Don’t hesitate – we’re filling the openings on a first come, first served basis.
Questions? Contact Karen Beall, State Bar member services program assistant.