Making the most of mentoring

Mentoring can be a career-changing experience for many, offering measured advice to journey through the demands and challenges faced by lawyers.

The Hellenic Lawyers Association resolved to provide a mentoring program for its members in 2016, and more than 50 members and associates now participate across Australia.

Mentee Madeline Young, lawyer Chantel Schoonwinkel, Sambanis Family Law principal and mentor Marie Sambanis, and mentee Nicole Macregeorgos, together at a HAL function.

Sambanis Family Law principal and long time HAL member, Marie Sambanis, has taken on two mentees through the HAL program in early 2017.

HAL Associate member and current mentee Madeline Young is a 24-year-old final year Bachelor of Laws student at the University of Queensland, while Nicole Macregeorgos is in her final semester of a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) at the Queensland University of Technology.

Both applied online through HAL’s mentoring program.

They have found the experience invaluable.

Nicole had been eager to gain insight and knowledge about the legal profession, particularly the demands of working in family law.

“I’ve had concerns that some of the subject matter would affect me and that I would burn out quickly if I were to practice in this area of law. As a result, it was extremely important for me to be able to connect with a mentor to discuss these concerns and to evaluate whether I was the right ‘fit’ for family law,” she said.

“The experience has been an invaluable opportunity for me to experience first hand the work of a family lawyer.

“This experience has shown me how varied family law practice can be. It has also opened my mind to career options within family law that I hadn’t previously considered. I now know that ultimately, I’d like to be an Independent Children’s Lawyer or a Separate Representative in the Children’s Court.

“Before mentoring, I had never considered this to be an option for me,” she said.

Madeline remarked that the mentoring experience built confidence and provided insights into the profession simply not available from an outside perspective.

“I have been a part of the inner workings of a family law firm, and I have been able to work closely with solicitors to understand and observe their actions. I have been involved in preparation for child protection proceedings, property settlements and parenting proceedings,” she said.

She’s had a close-up view of how family law matters are handled and progressed, interacting with many other areas within the legal framework, such as the work of barristers, mediators and Legal Aid.

With understanding has come further belief in her ability to succeed in the profession.

“This opportunity has provided me with a confidence in my abilities generally, as well as giving me the chance to further develop my legal writing and communication skills under the guidance of a skilled and experienced practitioner,” she said.

Sambanis Family Law principal Marie Sambanis  believes mentoring provides an opportunity for law students and graduates to experience the practical side to law.

For her as a mentor, a welcome benefit has been working with intelligent individuals who are keen and motivated to learn the practical side to law.

“Mentoring also provides a foot in the door for the mentee to gain practical experience in a law office regardless of the area they will end up specialising in.”

HAL Mentoring Committee Chair Maria Barbayannis said there would be further enhancements to the program in 2018, developed from feedback from mentors and mentees.

Maria detailed the many benefits for mentees:

  • Gaining insight and knowledge about the legal profession, including its challenges
  • an opportunity to build a professional relationship and networks;
  • guidance on achieving professional goals;
  • identifying factors affecting career development and opportunities; and
  • strategies for career progression.

“The mentoring program for 2017 has been a success, and will conclude in mid-December. The 2018 program will begin in March, and those interested can register on the HAL website,” she said.

For mentors, she said, there are many personal and professional benefits including:

  • being viewed as a professional role model;
  • exposure to ideas and perspectives that may apply to your own practice, and
  • reflection upon your own achievements and practices.

Marie Sambanis, while operating a busy practice specializing in family law, child protection, domestic violence, wills and estates, says taking on two eager mentees through the HAL program has been a worthwhile experience for all three.

She sees it as “giving back to the profession” but mentoring is more than repayment. It inspires the next generation of young lawyers, and lays a framework for collaboration and collegiality into the future.

For those wishing to participate as a mentor in 2018, if you have not already registered, please do so at this link.

Those who wish to participate as mentees in 2018, please also register at this link.