Most of us have had many mentors over the years. My most memorable was a physician who had attained great prominence in his profession. In addition to being the top student at Harvard College, Medical School, and a researcher who discovered the test for thyroid, he was an amazing teacher. Brown Medical School has a teaching award named after him. But his greatest gift was his presence. I don’t mean just physical presence. He listened and engaged in real conversation. He was genuinely interested in his patients, medical students and me as a young lawyer. He demystified medicine and life. He got me thinking and put me into action.
I have had about 100 interns in my office over the years. Some stayed in Rhode Island and continue to teach me as they appear as opposing counsel on cases. Others are spread across the country from San Francisco to Boston. I occasionally get a visit, note or an email from them. It is gratifying to have the temporary privilege of getting someone started on their professional path.
Now, it is more critical than ever to help young professionals get started. Roger Williams University School of Law, the state’s only law school, provides a wealth of local talent. It has a public service (field work) requirement for graduation. But the entire region’s law schools have internship programs. Young lawyers and law students need experience, and most of us could use some help.
When I look back I realize that just the right intern came at just the right time. Sometimes really great things happened right before a trial, such as finding a key piece of evidence in a giant pile of discovery. Other times, the victories were smaller, such as teaching me how to use the latest technological gadget that is now part of my daily life. But the best part often comes years later, when you open the mail and read the note that says “thank you”.