By Amelia Patrick
Washington Council of Lawyers is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, and throughout these celebrations, we’ve reminisced about our many success stories. The Mentoring Program is one of these successes. Throughout the years, the Mentoring Program has fostered one-on-one mentoring relationships, hosted various networking events and training sessions, and brought together our public-interest community in a unique way. The Mentoring Program positively impacts many members’ experience with Washington Council of Lawyers, and both mentors and mentees love remembering the programs’ past and looking forward to the program’s future. Multiple leaders of the program throughout the years shared some of their fondest memories of this incredible program.
When Jess Rosembaum, the creator of the Mentoring Program, was Vice President of the Council in 2005, she saw a problem that she wanted to address. She noticed that the majority of Washington Council of Lawyers members were more career-established. In Jess’ personal experience, joining Washington Council of Lawyers later in her career helped her to make valuable connections with the broader public interest community in D.C.; however, she wished she’d had this support system sooner, specifically right after she moved to D.C. with her Skadden Fellowship in 1996. Thus, her idea to create the Mentoring Program was born. Through the program, she hoped to get new lawyers involved in Washington Council of Lawyers earlier in their career so they could take advantage of the legal expertise, network building, and opportunities to learn about the multitude of ways to get involved with pro bono and public interest law.
In the early days, the Mentoring Program consisted of one-on-one mentoring interactions in addition to monthly or bi-monthly large-group programs and training sessions. These events included brown bag lunches, happy hours, and substantive skills trainings. Through these events, a community was born. Jess noted that her favorite part of the program was watching new lawyers who nervously joined the program relax in the nurturing environment created by the mentors that made each mentee feel comfortable, wanted, and accepted.
Board members and previous program co-chairs, Taryn Wilgus Null and Jen Swedish joined the Mentoring Program in 2007 because their fellowship supervisor at National Women’s Law Center received an email about the opportunity and encouraged them to join. They both loved their experience as mentees because it got them involved in Washington Council of Lawyers early in their careers. The Mentoring Program made them feel connected to the broader public-interest community in DC. Jen noted that after her time as a mentee, she contacted a mentor from the program because they were connected to the DOJ, and she was interested in a job at the DOJ. That individual spoke with her about their experiences, which Jen found helpful, and today Jen happily works at DOJ. This is just one example of the connections made during the Mentoring Program that can last well beyond the program duration. In fact, Jen and Taryn continue to serve as mentors because of their love and appreciation for this program and the positive impact it makes on young public-interest lawyers in the DC area.
As it was from the beginning, the Mentoring Program is a wonderful opportunity for young lawyers to get involved in the D.C. public interest community early in their careers and grow valuable leadership skills. The important relationships and substantive programming help young lawyers grow personally and professionally. The Mentoring Program is a vital component of the Washington Council of Lawyers community, and the perfect opportunity for new and seasoned lawyers to build lasting relationships.
You, too, can be a part of this storied tradition. Apply today! Applications for mentors and mentees are open until Friday, September 24, 2021, at 5:00 pm ET. More information about the program, including application criteria, is available here.
Amelia Patrick is the 2021 Washington Council of Lawyers summer intern.