Faces of Mentoring - Marvin L. Karp, Esq.

Even after 47 years of practicing law, I still remember vividly the mentoring I received from senior lawyers in my firm and from lawyers I encountered in the course of bar association activities.

With respect to the former, I was taught early on the importance of being fully prepared not only on the facts, but on the law, as I went into trial. My principal mentor in the firm - - to whom I sat “second chair” many times in my early years of practice - - had me prepare separate trial briefs on virtually every evidentiary and procedural issue that might conceivably come up at trial: “Don't rely just on your ability to orally argue the point. Good judges are impressed most by the law, so be prepared to hand the judge the applicable case law, right there on paper so that he can see it, the moment a particular issue arises.”

A variation on this is what I now tell young lawyers in our firm who ask me to support a proposition of law that they are going to be arguing to a judge: “Here is my view, but that alone won't get you very far. You are going to have to hit the books, because to convince the judge, you are going to need case authority. You can't simply tell the Court, “‘Marvin Karp says that this is the law.' Now, let me suggest how you might go about finding the case law you are going to need, what books or treatises you might look at, what key words you might check out,” etc.

With respect to outside activities, I have held positions of leadership in a number of bar associations and lawyer organizations, locally and nationally. My advancement to those positions was due in large measure to mentoring: lawyers whom I had gotten to know helped pave the way, either by urging me to volunteer, or by recommending to other people that I be invited, to speak at meetings or seminars or write articles or assist in various ways. Without their help in “opening doors,” my professional life would never have been anywhere near as satisfying as it has been.