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January 2016 - Mentor Minutes
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Mentoring Minutes

by Victoria M. McLaughlin

The setting: Good Stuff, a small eatery in Hermosa Beach, California. The restaurant is located on The Strand, so patrons can see the ocean and feel its breeze. I sat at a table, twenty minutes early for my 8:00 a.m. breakfast appointment, waiting...a bit nervously.

When he walked in, wearing jeans and a button-up shirt, he looked tired, and perhaps bored. Bored already?, I thought. I got the feeling he showed up only out of a sense of duty—because I had asked him to, and he said he would. He was the managing partner at a law firm in town and, as I've come to learn, was extraordinarily busy.

He sat, and we talked. He wasn't warm and fuzzy, not outwardly cheerful. He was stern and matter of fact. I asked for advice regarding the practice of law, and he provided concise, intelligent answers. He questioned me regarding my goals and interests, and I answered honestly.

At the end of our meal, I had no idea what he thought of me. I did think there was a good chance he didn't like me at all. However, as I drove home, he hit me with a barrage of messages regarding my future and potential opportunities. One such opportunity truly surprised me.

This attorney acted as counsel for a nonprofit organization on a pro bono basis. In that capacity, he had begun planning the annual board meeting, which that year was to be held on-site in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He invited me to assist in planning and to attend the weeklong meeting with him.

I knew I had to say yes and simply figure out the logistics later. So I did.

Two months of planning and preparing later, I found myself sitting at a terminal in LAX at 10:00 p.m., waiting for this attorney to arrive. I opened a book I had brought, but couldn't actually focus enough to read it. I was going to Haiti, after all. And then I saw the attorney approaching—and I thought, okay, I'm really going to Haiti.

The trip justifies an article all its own. Throughout the week, I participated in the Board's sessions, toured the nonprofit's facilities, and met the beneficiaries of the various programs (mostly orphaned children). I also spent quality time with the Board, including one-on-one time with nearly every board member, all of whom were successful, prominent individuals in each of their respective professions, whether law, medicine, real estate, or business.

In short, my invitation to breakfast turned into one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences in which I have been fortunate enough to partake. It also led to a rich mentoring relationship I never anticipated would develop.

I now meet this attorney for breakfast every month. The setting: Good Stuff. Except now, I’m not twenty minutes early.

Victoria M. McLaughlin is an attorney at Law Offices of William E. Crockett. She co-chairs the Young Lawyers Section of WLALA and sits on the Executive Committee of the LACBA Barristers.