By Ms. JD Editor • March 13, 2012•Features
Editor's Note: In a continuation of our Ms. JD Celebrates posts, Justice Fernande Duffly offers her perspective on Ms. JD's mentoring programs, sponsorship, creating a pipeline of future leaders, and why she invests time in the Ms. JD Fellowship. Let's hope we're creating future women judges like Justice Duffly!
Mentoring of many shapes and sizes is important. One of the most important is your mentor/sponsor within your law firm or other legal work environment. This is the person who will take you under his or her wing and provide good work opportunities, the kind of choice assignments that lead to skill enhancement and advancement both within the organization and without. Although doing excellent work, and working hard, is essential to success in any field, it generally is not enough, so it will be important to find someone who will support your efforts on the path to leadership.
Your sponsor should not be your only mentor. There are other opportunities that are increasingly available through national organizations such the ABA, NAWJ and Ms. JD, and local bar associations. Many minority or specialty bars have instituted formal mentoring programs that match experienced lawyers or judges with younger ones; the collaboration between the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and Ms. JD, to create the Ms. JD Fellowship is a good example. These types of programs give you the opportunity to get answers to questions you may not feel comfortable asking within the confines of your firm or to explore other career options that you may be interested in.
I agreed to participate in the Ms. JD Fellowship program because I enjoy mentoring; by passing on my experiences to new lawyers, and providing advice, information, encouragement and other support, I am helping to create a legacy of women leaders. Because Ms. JD Fellows are selected from among those who have leadership potential, they are a perfect fit for partnership with the Commission on Women, which annually selects recipients of the prestigious Margaret Brent Award, from among the country's leading women lawyers and judges.
I have met Liz, my "Brentee" (named after the Margaret Brent Award) several times over the past year. I first invited her to attend NAWJ's annual meeting with the Women's Legislative Caucus in DC last summer where she was then working, and we arranged to meet again at the ABA mid year in Toronto. Last week, Liz and a number of volunteers she organized, helped NAWJ with is mid-year Leadership Conference, held at Harvard Law school where Liz is in her third year. They had the chance to support our conference, interact with the pver 300 participants and listen to Dean Martha Minnow and Justice Elena Kagan have a "conversation" about Justice Kagan's experiences as the newest Justice on the Supreme Court.
I have viewed my mentoring as an opportunity to introduce Liz to women judges as they advance justice inside and outside of the courtroom, to give her an expanded view of what being a judge is, or at least can be. I also had a chance to hear Liz and other young women speak at the Women's Caucus during the ABA annual meeting in Toronto, about what they viewed as the primary challenges to advancement in the profession. That panel provided some reverse mentoring, and let me see the legal profession through the eyes of these young women. Creating these types of opportunities for women who are further along in our careers to connect with women like Liz who are just getting started is one of the most important things that Ms. JD offers to the legal community.
Happy anniversary Ms. JD. I look forward to seeing the positive change and advancement you help bring about in the next six years.