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The Utah State Bar's New Lawyer Training Program has received the 2013 Gambrell Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association.
“This is a tremendous honor and is evidence of the great work being done by the bar staff, new lawyer training program committees, and the court's committee on professionalism,” said Utah State Bar President Lori Nelson. “We salute them for their vision, determination, and extensive work to make this program a success.”
The goal of the program is to train lawyers during their first year of practice in acquiring the practical skills and judgment necessary to practice in a highly competent and ethical manner.
New Lawyer Training Program participants work with a Utah Supreme Court-approved volunteer mentor, who has practiced for at least seven years, has no public discipline and, if in private practice, carries malpractice insurance. The mentor and new lawyer meet at least once a month to discuss the new lawyer’s legal work, professional development, and adjustment to the practice of law. They also review the Utah Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct to foster professionalism, ethics, and civility.
New lawyer Matthew Munson credits his relationships with his mentor, Scott Rasmussen, as essential to helping him learn to be a lawyer and open his own practice. He was initially annoyed that the bar was requiring him to participate in the program, but Munson quickly realized that he was not being assigned a “babysitter,” but a “resource that would answer questions, give assurance as needed, and generally help avoid many pitfalls.” Munson continues to have a strong professional and personal connection with Rasmussen.
Program administrator Elizabeth Wright says that the program has been beneficial for lawyers at firms and with government agencies, as well as those seeking work or clients. “Working with a mentor expands the new lawyer’s network, which helps advance or launch their careers. With a mentoring culture, the whole profession benefits.” said Wright.
There are 869 New Lawyer Training Program mentors. At the end of July 2013, 862 new lawyers will have completed the program.
After the first year’s practice, lawyers engage in at least 24 hours of continuing legal education every two years, including more focus on professionalism, ethics, and civility.
The award was established in 1991 and is named for E. Smythe Gambrell, former president of the American Bar Association and American Bar Foundation. Gambrell founded the Legal Aid Society in Atlanta, where he practiced law from 1922 until his death in 1986.