There is a composite photograph hanging in the MBA headquarters from 1950. By my quick count, there were about 170 lawyers in Mobile at that time. All were white and only two were women. Times have changed. Today, our membership has increased almost nine fold and has diversified considerably. That composite brought two things to mind.
First – the importance of mentoring in today’s law practice. In 1950, lawyers were learning on the job, but mostly from other lawyers. What a closely knit group that must have been. No faxes, email, conference calls or electronic filing. Interaction at bar luncheons, the courthouse or conference rooms was by far the most common way that lawyers communicated. Sure, they spoke by phone and wrote letters. Things got done, however, and young lawyers learned, at the conference room table or in the courtroom. Experienced lawyers had time to teach and new lawyers had time to learn.
Today email and conference calls are the norm. Actually sitting down with another lawyer to conduct business gets rarer and rarer, as do jury trials. More and more, young lawyers are starting solo – hanging up their own shingles. A lawyer’s week has become busier and more stressful as marketing is now a big part of the equation and profit margins have been squeezed by a variety of factors. There are not enough hours in the week to get things done, let alone to learn how to do them right. The result – many young lawyers are lacking the guidance they need – and Google is not the answer.
The MBA mentoring program is dealing with that problem. Greg Vaughan, this year’s chairperson, has some exciting ideas. If you have five years experience or less, please consider joining the program. We have outstanding mentors who stand ready to help you. If you have some gray hair (or did before you got in the shower this morning), please consider volunteering as a mentor. It is a satisfying way to give back to the profession and to our bar. Your mentee, in turn, can teach you things about social media that you have never even considered.
Second – that photo reminds us that we still have lawyers in our midst who started practicing before most of us were even born. Though few are still with us, their collective knowledge, both legal and historical, is more than impressive. We need to bottle that knowledge and remember the history they lived through – good or bad. One of the younger faces on that composite – Robert Denniston – is still practicing at 95! The latest issue of Mobile Bay Monthly magazine has a great article about another face on that same composite – recently retired Tom Galloway, Sr. Do yourself a favor and read it.
Their stories and experiences will not be forgotten, thanks to Mi
tch Lattof, Sr. and the Archives and History committee. They have begun videoing oral histories which are available for viewing on the MBA website. Presently, you can watch Tom Galloway, Sr., Don Brutkiewicz, Sr., and Big John Tyson – what a lineup. Videos of Mr. Denniston and Tom Haas should be available soon.