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The Florida Bar News—E-Mentoring Program

The Florida Bar News- E-Mentoring Program

CONTACT: Jennifer Krell Davis
The Florida Bar
TELEPHONE: 850/561-5766

After a long day as a Miami criminal defense lawyer, Mark Eiglarsh got home and was greeted by another computer message from a sophomore at the Legal and Public Affairs Magnet at Miami Senior High asking another interesting question: "If George Bush catches Osama bin Laden and chooses to have secret trials, what would your feelings be as a former prosecutor?" Eiglarsh was happy to zap back a thoughtful answer.

And so goes another day in the life of an "e-mentor" participating in a new project launched by the Dade County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (YLD). "It's going spectacularly," reports Eiglarsh, who co-chairs the bar association's Schools Committee and serves on Dade's YLD board of directors.

E-mentoring, a chance for high school students interested in a legal career to learn from real-life lawyers, is as easy as typing on a computer keyboard any time of day or night. The rules for the e-mentoring project say there must be at least one e-mail exchange a week. But the words are flowing freely for most mentors and mentees.

As a board member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Eiglarsh has long known the satisfaction of mentoring children, and he admits the time and energy it takes to spend time with a child in person is more rewarding. But in the busy world of lawyering, he applauds the convenience of cyberspace connecting, and believes it, too, has the potential to make a positive difference in motivating and inspiring children.

In late October, the e-mentoring project kicked off with an opening event that provided a chance for the students to get to know their e-mentors face-to-face. When it came time to pair up mentors and mentees, Christi Sherouse, a Coral Gables attorney, couldn't have been happier. Sherouse says she is already getting something back from her e-mentoring experience: "My mentee is so bright and interested in making the world a better place. She's interested in environmental law and goes out on the weekend and plants trees. She's active in so many ways and so idealistic that she can make a difference. And that has resparked that idealism in me."

E-mentoring is more structured than the back-and-forth e-mail between students and lawyers. The program coordinator, Justin Elegant, crafted a 16-page document that outlines everything from general tips for successful mentoring (use spell check on all e-mail messages to ensure accuracy) to general tips for mentees (express feelings and emotions, be truthful and honest) to program structure (a minimum of weekly e-mails on Tuesday or Wednesday, and three required face-to-face meetings at Miami Senior High throughout the year) to safety policies (do not share your home address or phone number, no gift giving of any kind).
So far, the project involving 14 girls and eight boys is so popular, there is already a waiting list of mentors and mentees.

*This new release is based on a story published by in The Florida Bar News, December 1, 2001, edition.