As the ranks of Kline School of Law alumni grow, an increasing number of attorneys with a JD from Drexel University are serving as mentors to law students and junior lawyers.
Kline School of Law mentors are helping to burnish the school’s reputation as a key player in the legal community in Philadelphia and beyond. Yet given the school’s status as a relative newcomer, many Kline School of Law alumni are junior enough to straddle the roles of mentors and mentees.
The relationships often fit into a mutually beneficial continuum, serving diverse purposes for both parties.
Mentors improve their own legal practice by teaching and find gratification from “giving back” to the school and the wider community.
Mentees, both current students and early-career associates, benefit from the moral support and encouragement they receive as much as they do from practical tips. Mentors don’t just open doors, they point their protégés toward those that are worthy of approaching.
“Professors Merritt Cole, Amy Boss and Karl Okamoto were great mentors for me,” said Ernie Holtzheimer, ’16 an associate at Montgomery McCracken. “They introduced me to different programs I should be involved with, going out of their way to get me involved. Amy introduced me to the ABA Business Law Section. Merritt recruited me to be on the Business Law Leaders Conference. Karl encouraged me to be involved in the ABA in general and helped me see the things I needed to learn to be successful as a business law attorney.”
Seven months into Zander Rogin’s associateship at Eckert Seamans, the ’15 alumna still recalls mentoring she received from Professor Adam Benforado, who spurred her to question assumptions, and from U.S. District Court Judge Sherry Fallon, who demanded pristine prose from her as a clerk.
“Everything I do now, I try to think critically about,” said Rogin, who worked as a contributing editor on Benforado’s book about the criminal justice system. “I try to think about all the questions and counterpoints I could think of when I’m approaching something. I’ll never end a sentence with a preposition again, after working with the judge.”
Rogin is fortunate that her own boss, Eckert Seamans partner Peter Hoffman, serves as a caring taskmaster who is committed to bringing out the best in his protegée.
“He does a really good job of pushing us to be better and is very encouraging,” she said of Hoffman, a member of the adjunct faculty. “He wants to make sure I do well. I am extremely loyal to him.”
Karen Grethlein, ’15, connected with an experienced practitioner as a 2L involved in the Jewish Law Student Association. That mentor helped her nail the interview for her current job as a civil litigation associate at Kane Pugh Kramer.
“She told me what a civil defense firm is looking for and how to understand the interview process, what questions to ask,” said Grethlein, who will transition into a mentoring role through her involvement with Pennsylvania’s Women in the Profession Commission.
Since graduating, Grethlein has been surprised by the power of just a few well-placed mentors to alter one’s career trajectory.
“One thing I didn’t realize is how small the legal community is,” Grethlein said. “If you have a couple of really good quality relationships with people and you maintain them, that is the best investment you can make in yourself.”
Holtzheimer has also embraced mentoring as a critical tool, organizing a June 8 speed-mentoring event hosted by the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Business Law Section and Young Lawyers Division, for which he serves as liaison.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for people giving back and helping me,” Holtzheimer said. “Anyone who’s achieved any level of success can take time out of their day to help others.”
This issue of The Docket is dedicated to the growing corps of alumni mentors who are traveling diverse pathways to serve the school, the community and the legal profession.