At every stage of my legal career, someone has mentored me. Some of my
mentors were official mentors, others unofficial. All have made an important
difference in my life and career. This article is to say thank you to
two very special ABA members: James F. Williams and Ronald R. Ward. This
article will focus on the importance of mentors.
Rarely a week goes by when I am not in touch with my friends Ron Ward and
James F. Williams. These two gentlemen are two of the most eloquent and
professional lawyers I have had the privilege to know. They each personify
the nobility of the legal profession. Their positive energy and magnetic
personalities are both uplifting and inspiring. I am honored to call them
my friends. It is with heart-felt gratitude that I thank the ABA for fostering
While I knew these two lawyers well before I became a member of the ABA
House of Delegates, it was during my service in the ABA House of Delegates
that I became closer to these gentlemen. They have each taken the time
to make an investment in my career. My job now is to reach out to other
attorneys and provide them with the same commitment, warmth and guidance.
We are all familiar with the pressures and demands of a litigation practice.
Literally we spend countless hours discussing case strategies, the business
of practicing law and finding balance in our personal lives.
My service in the House of Delegates was one of the most rewarding experiences
of my career. It was rewarding both because of the importance of the work
but also the experiences which were made more meaningful knowing my friends
were close at hand. It is true to say the entire Washington delegation
is a tight-knit group. While James and Ron are good friends, Bill Neukom,
Llew Pritchard and Paula Boggs were also instrumental in my development
as a member of the House. Sonia Rodriguez, another close friend was appointed
at the same time and we served together for four years. In addition, Sonia
and I have served on the board of trustees of the Washington State Bar
Association's Young Lawyers Division. We were both fortunate to receive
guidance from several ABA members in particular the Minority Caucus. We
served during the historic presidencies of Dennis Archer, Robert Grey,
Mike Greco and Karen Mathis.
I could not write this article without mentioning Lembhard G. Howell. Mr.
Howell has been an invaluable mentor to me for my entire legal career.
Mr. Howell is one of the founders of the National Bar Associate Affiliate;
Loren Miller Bar Association. Mr. Howell was the first person of color
to serve on the WSBA Board of Governors paving the way for Ron Ward and
others. He also served on the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.
He spoke so positively about his experiences and subsequently encouraged
me to serve in various capacities within the ABA. Like James and Ron,
Lem is both an accomplished lawyer and special human being.
In 2004, Ron Ward became the first African-American President of the then
twenty-eight thousand member Washington State Bar Association. Many have
been quoted as saying Ron Ward was one of, if not the best President of
the WSBA. President Ward created the Washington Leadership Institute.
The mission of the WSBA Leadership Institute is to recruit, train, and retain Washington attorneys who have been admitted to practice for three to ten
years for leadership positions in the legal community and in the WSBA.
Program participants ("fellows") are selected with an emphasis
on diversity (racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, disability,
cultural, and geographic). Ron asked James Williams to serve as the Inaugural
Chair of the WLI. President Ward felt James had done such an exemplary
job that he awarded him with the WSBA President's Award.
Mentoring is critical
We can all make a significant difference in someone's career as a mentor.
Even a short phone call, a cup of coffee or a few e-mails can encourage
someone. An invitation to a bar association event, community event or
sport outing can lift someone's spirit. These types of investments
serve to fulfill our obligation to improve the legal profession as a whole
and can make a difference in the way the mentee perceives the practice of law.
I remember all the things I did not know when I started my first job. Several
lawyers spent time explaining simple things to me. In some instances,
it was technical expertise or ethical dilemmas and in other instances
it was simply moral support.
My heart beats with incredible joy when I'm in court or trial or meeting
with a new client. I'm a plaintiff's trial lawyer with a passion
for justice. My friends are still my biggest influence.