May 30, 2017

Robert Calvert Inn of Court Focuses on Mentorship

By Matt Garcia
I love telling stories.  When I was a youth minister, I used to tell a story about an eagle’s egg that fell from a tree and found its way into a chicken coop.  When the eaglet hatched, its mother hen taught the eaglet how to peck and live its life as a chicken. One day, out of the corner of the eaglet’s eye, the little eaglet looked up at the sky and saw a beautiful eagle – flying, soaring.  Amazed and with a longing in its heart, the eaglet asked the mother hen why they didn’t fly.  The Mother Hen laughed in only a way a hen could and said, “Because we are chickens and chickens don’t fly.”  Sadly, the eaglet lived the rest of its life as a chicken never reaching its full potential.

Now before you start emailing me that there is nothing wrong with being a chicken or that the incubation levels are different for chickens than eagles, I want you to know the reason why I am sharing this story.  I am sharing this story because I would like to encourage all of us to reflect on our every day practice.  So often, we, as lawyers, can get so caught up in our every day routines and problems that we forget what it is like to soar like eagles.  Instead, we find ourselves barricaded behind our desks pecking away at our keyboards like chickens.  With this in mind and wanting to add quality and value to our members, the mentoring committee of the Robert Calvert Inn provided three programs for their members to participate in this year.

Larry York Mentoring Luncheons.  Named after Larry York, a wonderful mentor and well-loved and admired Inn member who passed away in 2013, the Robert Calvert Inn designed this program to allow lawyers to participate in monthly  luncheons in which their members could ask candid  questions on specific issues.  Inn members from all four Inns were invited to sit around the table and discuss topics such as:

  • Can’t we all just get along?
  • How to deal with Difficult People
  • Whatcha’ going to do when they come for you?
  • Encounters with Law Enforcement
  • Social Media – Staying Connected Without Committing Malpractice.

Triads.  In addition to providing spaces for its members to ask questions, the Mentoring Committee felt that Robert Calvert Inn should provide opportunities for more individualized mentoring.  As a result, our Inn starting placing members into Triads.  A Triad consists of a Master, Barrister and Associates and sometimes includes a pupil.  Triads are encouraged to meet every other month and are designed to provide a more intimate environment for mentoring and networking.  Triads are a great place for members to discuss problems that they didn’t feel comfortable asking in a large group or in their own firm.  Many of Triads meet informally for lunch or happy hour but others work together on social justice projects.

MAS – Mentoring a Student.  Not happy with just mentoring their own, the Calvert Inn also takes their message to high school students.  Founded by Judge Orlinda Naranjo of the 419th Judicial District of Travis County, Texas, MAS is in its fourth year of existence.  MAS is a unique mentoring program that brings Inn members in contact with students from Travis High School.  Located just a few minutes from downtown Austin, Travis High School student population is 96% minority and 85% economically disadvantaged.  Our Inn members met once a month with approximately 20 students who are in a Principles of Law/Criminal Justice Class.  Some the topics they discussed were:  “Driven to Distraction” – The physical and legal effects of Multi-Tasking;  “Smile you are on Candid Camera” – Can and should the police be video-taped; “Now that you are 18” – An overview of basic law covering apartment leases, voting, credit, drinking laws.  The highlight of the year for both the Inn members and the students was the Mock Trial on “Dating Violence”.  The Mock Trial will be held at the Austin Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse before middle and high schools students with Judge Naranjo presiding.  Prior to the Mock Trial, Inn members met with the MAS students to prepare them for their roles as witnesses and lawyers and the handling of evidence which included the audiotape and torn blouse.

Recognizing that not everyone wears the same size of shoe, the Robert Calvert Inn has tried to design a space for each of the members to feel comfortable sharing their stories and re-acquainting themselves with why they became lawyers in the first place.  In doing so, it is our hope that we can raise the standard in our legal community and encourage our members to think of their job as something more than a job but as a profession, a practice – continuously pushing each other to soar like eagles.

Matt Garcia is the managing member of Barnett & Garcia, PLLC and chair of the mentoring committee for the Robert Calvert Inn of Court.  He practices exclusively in the collection of commercial debt through litigation and the enforcement of judgments.