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In re Extension of Lawyer Mentoring Second Pilot Program

Supreme Court of South Carolina

December 1, 2010

Extension of Lawyer Mentoring Second Pilot Program

          ORDER

          Jean H. Toal C.J.

         By Order dated December 2, 2008, the Court adopted the Lawyer Mentoring Second Pilot Program, which was recommended by the Chief Justice's Commission on the Profession. The Program is scheduled to end on December 31, 2011. After study, the Chief Justice's Commission on the Profession has recommended extending the Program to April 1, 2012. We grant the request and extend the Second Pilot Program to April 1, 2012. Participation is mandatory for all persons admitted to the South Carolina Bar on or before April 1, 2012, who meet the definition of a "qualifying lawyer" under Section 3 of the Second Pilot Program.

         IT IS SO ORDERED.

          Costa M. Pleicones J., Donald W. Beatty J., John W. Kittredge J., Kaye G. Hearn J.

         LAWYER MENTORING SECOND PILOT PROGRAM

         1. DURATION OF PROGRAM.

         The second pilot program will run from March 2009 until April 1, 2012, and include all qualifying lawyers admitted to the Bar between March 1, 2009, and April 1, 2012. The Program shall be administered by the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization.

         2. MANDATORY PARTICIPATION.

         The second pilot program is mandatory for all qualifying lawyers. Unless participation is delayed under Section 3 below, all lawyers must complete the mentoring program within the first full calendar year after admission to the South Carolina Bar.

         3. QUALIFYING LAWYER DEFINED.

         A qualifying lawyer is any lawyer admitted to the South Carolina Bar during the prescribed period if that lawyer (1) is a resident of the State of South Carolina or practices law in an office located in South Carolina on more than a temporary basis; and (2) has not previously practiced law actively in another jurisdiction for more than two years.

         Special Circumstances:

a) A qualifying lawyer who is employed as a non-permanent, full-time clerk to a state or federal judge during the first year of admission to the South Carolina Bar may elect to participate in the mentoring program after the completion of his or her clerkship.
b) A qualifying lawyer who is not engaged in the representation of clients nor any other form of the active practice of law may request a waiver of this requirement by certifying that he or she is not engaged in the active practice of law in South Carolina and does not intend to do so for a period of at least two years. If that lawyer later begins to actively practice law in South Carolina, he or she must then notify the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization and participate in the mentoring program for one year after beginning to actively practice law. [This last sentence will not apply to lawyers who begin to actively practice law in South Carolina after April 1, 2012, unless the mentoring program is made permanent.]
c) A qualifying lawyer who begins the mentoring program, but, prior to the completion of the program, moves his or her residency out of the state and no longer practices regularly in the state, is not required to complete the mentoring program. The new lawyer must provide notice to the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization of his or her move from the state as the basis for not completing the program. The new lawyer's license to practice law shall not be affected by the failure to complete the program in this circumstance. If that lawyer subsequently returns to South Carolina prior to having been engaged in the active practice of law as a member of another bar for at least two years, however, the new lawyer may be required to complete the mentoring program within the first full calendar year after returning to the state. [This last sentence will not apply to lawyers who return to the state after April 1, 2012, unless the mentoring program is made permanent.]

         4. PURPOSE OF PROGRAM.

         The purpose of the mentoring program is to provide assistance to the new lawyer in the following respects:

a) The mentor should assist the new lawyer in developing an understanding of how law is practiced in a manner consistent with the duties, responsibilities, and expectations that accompany membership in the legal profession. The mentor should provide guidance or introduce the new lawyers to others who can provide guidance as to proper law practice management, including the handling of funds, even if the new lawyer is not currently in a setting that requires the use of those practices. Guidance should be given not only as to a lawyer's ethical duties, but also as to the development of a higher sense of professionalism based upon internalized principles of appropriate behavior consistent with the ideals of the profession.
b) The mentor should assist the new lawyer in developing specific professional skills and habits necessary to gain and maintain competency in the law throughout one's career and should assist the new lawyer in developing a network of other persons from whom the new lawyer may seek personal or professional advice or counsel when appropriate or necessary throughout their career. While a strong mentoring relationship (particularly if the mentor and new lawyer are in the same firm or office) may also include specific advice to or training of a new lawyer regarding substantive aspects of the law, such substantive legal training should not be required of a mentor in this program.
c) The mentor should assist the new lawyer in identifying and developing specific professional skills and habits necessary to create and maintain professional relationships based upon mutual respect between the lawyer and client; the lawyer and other parties and their counsel; the lawyer and the court, including its staff; the lawyer and others working in his or her office, including both lawyers and staff; and the lawyer and the public. The mentor should assist the new lawyer in understanding the appropriate boundaries between advocacy and overzealous or uncivil behavior and in developing appropriate methods of responding to inappropriate behavior by others.
d) The mentor should introduce the new lawyer to others in the lawyer's local or regional legal community and encourage the new lawyer to become an active part of that community.

         5. STRUCTURE OF PROGRAM.

         Mentoring shall be made available through either individual or group mentoring. Unless a different mentoring plan is approved under Section 6, each qualifying new lawyer is required to complete the mentoring tasks set forth in a standard mentoring plan prepared by the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization and approved by the Court. The standard plan may include a recommended schedule for completing the tasks, but that actual order and timing of completion of the tasks shall be within the discretion of the participants, provided that the full plan is completed as required in Section 2 above. In addition to completing the specific required tasks, it should be expected that, in an individual mentoring arrangement, the mentor and new lawyer will consult throughout the calendar year as either may deem necessary or appropriate.

         The mentor and new lawyer may choose the method of communication that best suits their needs. However, if a mentor and new lawyer do not otherwise have regular in-person contact, they should schedule at least some periodic in-person discussions throughout the mentoring period. Each person should be cognizant of demands on the other's schedule and attempt to find a mutually acceptable time for these meetings. If there is a recurrent failure by either party to make time available for this purpose, or if other difficulties arise which cannot be resolved by the parties and which threaten the timely and effective completion of the mentoring program, the parties to the relationship (or either of them) should advise the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization of the situation and request the assistance of that office in resolving the matter.

         a) Individual Mentoring.

         Most new lawyers will have an individual mentor approved by the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization. Preference should be given to the appointment of a mentor selected by the new lawyer, who may be, but is not required to be, a lawyer working in the same firm or office as the new lawyer.

         If a new lawyer does not select a qualified mentor, then one of the following options will apply:

1) if the new lawyer is employed and another lawyer in the same firm or office could serve as a mentor, the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization shall contact the firm or office and seek the voluntary agreement of a qualified lawyer in the firm or office to serve as the new lawyer's mentor;
2) if the new lawyer wishes to have an individual mentor and either no mentor is obtained under option (1) or the new lawyer is not employed in a firm or office able to supply a mentor, then the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization shall seek to recruit a qualified individual mentor from among the members of the South Carolina Bar. In this event, a reasonable effort should be made to designate a mentor from the same or a nearby geographic area with experience in a practice setting similar to that of the new lawyer; or
3) the new lawyer shall be assigned to participate in group mentoring.

         b) Group Mentoring.

         The Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization will develop a program of group mentoring for those new lawyers not assigned an individual mentor. A group mentoring program should have some element of live contact with members of the mentoring group, but it may be a combination of live contact and electronic or other forms of distance mentoring as may be deemed sufficient by the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization. The preferred ratio of new lawyers to mentors in a group mentoring program shall be no greater than 3 to 1.

         6. CERTIFICATION OF INTERNAL PROGRAMS.

         A law firm or office (including, but not limited to, governmental agencies, corporate legal departments, state and local prosecutors, and public defenders) which has an internal mentoring program in place that it believes achieves all of the purposes of this program may apply to the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization to have its mentoring plan certified as compliant with the mentoring obligation under the pilot program. The application for certification should include a detailed description of the internal program and a detailed showing of how each of the purposes of this program will be achieved under the internal program. If a program is certified, completion of that program by a qualifying new lawyer should be deemed to satisfy the mentoring requirement. The new lawyer and the lawyer responsible for the certified program should be required to file a statement for each new lawyer verifying that the new lawyer has completed all requirements of the program. Once certified, a program should remain certified throughout the duration of the pilot program unless it is materially altered.

         7. GENERAL ...


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