lawyer speak with that force in a negotiation before that meeting.
LR: Well, I still remember how innocent
my clients were—both he and his wife. I
also remember that you were a detail-ori-ented young lawyer, though even for a
younger lawyer you might have exhibited
more confidence at the time.
SB: I was still contemplating how your
“innocent” clients were observed scrambling around their equipment lot with
handfuls of VIN plates right before a collateral inspection. But I didn’t have enough
confidence to expound upon that at our
LR: Well, in the beginning of my career, in
the mid 1950s in Tucson, Arizona, I started solo and didn’t have much time to pick
and choose lofty clients and didn’t have the
“big firm” lawyers that you had to bring
you along. My first bankruptcy work in
those days was representing bankruptcy
trustees. I tried a fraudulent conveyance
action, and that experience taught me
about the bankruptcy
SB: What would you tell
younger lawyers about taking cases today?
LR: Young attorneys
should not turn up their
noses at representing
trustees. Even if not lucrative or glamorous, it is a
great way to learn the
Bankruptcy Code. You
should encourage young
lawyers to get involved with
trustees and receivers, as
well as with Legal Aid
cases—a great experience.
SB: Our friendship and
seemed to gel during major
CLE conferences, where
we would sit together and I
would get sore ribs from
your poking me to com-
ment on the potential bias of a speaker
or usefulness of the information. At those
conferences, why did you sit with me or any
younger lawyers, and not with your con-
LR: I already had a good feel for the perspectives of my contemporaries. I would
rather learn about the younger lawyers’
views and perspectives to keep up to date
and appreciate the future of the profession.
SB: As we got to know each other, I would
call you regarding legal issues and/or law
practice management issues. We also shared
experiences regarding our families and backgrounds. What is important to know about
a person for whom you are a mentor?
LR: It is crucial to show an interest in a
younger lawyer’s life, learn about what
makes them tick, and frankly it’s crucial in
developing any business or human relationship. I have a genuine interest in people,
and that goes for not just mentees, but
employees, colleagues and acquaintances.
I want to learn about their families, values,
goals and experiences. You can’t provide
good guidance or advice in a vacuum; a
mentor must understand the context in
which the mentee is navigating.
SB: We’ve never practiced at the same firm.
Do you feel that there are limitations on
how much you can mentor someone who is
not a colleague at your firm?
LR: No, this is not about a competition; it’s
about a relationship. Of course, we can’t
trample confidentiality in the name of mentoring, but most problems can be discussed
without breaching any lines in that regard.
In addition, I may even provide some good
and blunt advice to an adversary in a case,
where I think they are conducting themselves in an unprofessional manner, hurting
their reputation or missing a key issue in
the matter. That is a form of mentoring
often not appreciated until much later in
SB: Several years ago I represented you
while you were acting as a trustee in a case.
What was your infamous response to me, a
lesson taught from a lawyer
to a lawyer, but really
about lawyer–client relations.
LR: I recall telling you
something to the effect of,
“That was a cogent, well-organized, well thought
out piece of legal advice
and legal analysis. Now, as
your client, I am telling
you, I am not going to follow the path you recommend. That is my prerogative.”
SB: Should have listened to
LR: Perhaps, but it was
worth it to see your expression.
SB: You have mentored so
many attorneys in our
community to some extent
Journey of a Mentor–Mentee Relationship
Like our authors, you may have launched your own fruitful
mentor–mentee relationship. But if you’re not sure how to
get started, the State Bar has a resource: