Jenner & Block

Maria C. Liu

What is your involvement in the firm’s formal mentoring program?
I have been involved in the formal mentoring program since the first day I joined the firm.  I was paired with Jonathan Beitner for my first year, who is a Double Wolverine like me.  For my second year, I was paired with Anne Ray in Chicago and Emily Chapuis in Washington D.C.  

What has your relationship been like?
Amazing!  It is nice to get connected to other attorneys in the firm that you may not normally get to know.  I have developed great relationships with my mentors that extend beyond the monthly lunch check-ins.   My mentors have provided me great advice on how to navigate the highs and lows of being a junior associate, gain substantive experience on my cases, and have a fulfilling career at Jenner & Block

Describe a typical meeting.
We typically meet once a month for lunch at one of many delicious restaurants in Chicago and now, Washington D.C.  What is discussed varies from meeting to meeting; there is often no set agenda.  Sometimes, we discuss the matters and assignments I am working on and address any questions I have.  Other times, I learn about my mentor’s career at the firm, and we talk through tips on how to be a valued junior associate.  And at other times, we talk about anything we want to – whether it is about our personal lives, involvement in the community, or anything University of Michigan related. (Go Blue!)

How has this relationship helped you in your role at the firm?
My mentor relationships have helped me tremendously as a junior associate at Jenner.  From my mentors, I am afforded unique perspectives on life at Jenner & Block and an attorney in Big Law more generally, and have gained lasting relationships that extend beyond the one-year assignment.

What would you say to others about the value of the mentoring program?
The mentorship program is one of many ways that Jenner & Block helps and prepares its attorneys to be not only better advocates for our clients, but also better connected individuals within the firm and the community.  With everything I have learned from my mentors and everything that I will continue to learn from them, I feel like I am well prepared to substantively contribute on my matters and be a valued and successful junior associate. 

Andrew P. Csoros

What is your involvement in the firm’s formal mentoring program?
I am a first-year associate and was paired with a senior associate, Jason Bradford.  

What has your relationship been like?
Getting to know Jason has influenced my development as a first-year associate more than any other variable.  From the outset, Jason has gone out of his way to make sure that I have the resources, opportunities, and guidance I need to succeed in my role.  He is also a great person and someone who genuinely cares about the firm and associate development.

Describe a typical meeting.
We typically meet over lunch.  The firm circulates a list of topics each month that track with associate development goals, and we sometimes use those topics as the jumping off point for our conversation.  Ordinarily, the conversation is a free-flowing exchange about the opportunities and challenges that I face as a first-year associate.  We’ve also had impromptu calls and check-ins when things have come up that I’ve wanted advice on right away.  Over time, our meetings have felt more like spending time with a friend who knows what it’s like to work at the firm, and wants to help me grow as an attorney.

How has this relationship helped you in your role at the firm?
Connecting with Jason has helped me in many ways.  Perhaps most significantly, he is always willing to listen and share examples and lessons from his experiences at the firm.  His openness has helped me feel connected at the firm, and give me valuable insights about how to approach my work.  All along, it’s been helpful to know that someone is available to listen and lend advice when I need it.

What would you say to others about the value of the mentoring program?
Don’t miss the opportunity – you and your career will benefit greatly.

Rita L. Feikema

What is your involvement in the firm’s formal mentoring program?
I was assigned an associate mentor when I started and have met with her at least every month.

What has your relationship been like?
We hit it off when I was a summer associate, so I was delighted to find that she was my assigned mentor. It is helpful to have someone who is closer to my level (i.e. a junior/mid-level associate vs. a senior associate or partner) who remembers what it was like to be a first-year associate.

Describe a typical meeting.
We usually get lunch once a month and coffee once a month. We discuss my current work load, partners I’m working with, upcoming closings or events, and whatever the suggested discussion topic is from the mentoring program. Sometimes I have questions about the actual work I’m doing; more often I have questions about the “soft skills” parts of my job and working within the firm culture.

How has this relationship helped you in your role at the firm?
She has provided guidance about the day-to-day aspects of my job and big, career-trajectory-style questions. It is helpful to have someone I can contact for a quick question or off-the-record discussion. Sometimes, I find myself repeating pieces of advice from my mentor to other first-year associates and summer associates.

What would you say to others about the value of the mentoring program?
I appreciate the structured nature of the program and suggested monthly discussion topics. The mentor program definitely enhances my experience at Jenner & Block.
 

Lauren J. Hartz

What is your involvement in the firm’s formal mentoring program?

The firm matched me with a partner mentor, Kali Bracey, the day I arrived. 

What has your relationship been like?

The firm made a great match.  Kali is an outstanding mentor and colleague.  Her interest in my success is genuine, and our monthly meetings are a highlight of my experience at Jenner & Block.

Describe a typical meeting.

We get together, usually over coffee, to catch up.  Kali is easy to talk to. Our meetings are fun, productive, and invigorating.  I enjoy hearing about Kali’s cases and clients—especially what challenges she has confronted and how she overcomes them.  Kali listens to my updates and questions and provides great counsel.  She’ll share advice she has received from others, suggest strategies from her own experience, and make connections to others at the firm with backgrounds or cases that match my interests.  She has unique insight by virtue of her breadth of legal experience, not only at Jenner but also at the Public Defender Service and in government.  Kali makes an effort to connect on a personal level, too, and I can always count on her for a story that will make me laugh.

How has this relationship helped you in your role at the firm?

Immeasurably.  I came to the firm several years into my career, without having spent a summer at Jenner or worked at any place like it.  It’s hard to imagine navigating this transition without a committed mentor like Kali.  She is generous with her time and advice. She has helped me gain my footing at Jenner & Block and think about my goals for the future. 

What would you say to others about the value of the mentoring program?

There are few things more valuable than a true mentor, and the program facilitates that special relationship.  Fortunately, the spirit of mentorship and collegiality at Jenner & Block extends beyond the formal program; the associates and partners with whom I work are great sources of support and guidance as well. 

Kali Bracey

What is your involvement in the firm’s formal mentoring program?

I serve as a mentor to Lauren Hartz.

What has your relationship been like?

Our relationship has been wonderful.  It has been great to see Lauren immerse herself in life at the firm. She attends women’s forum events and interviews prospective associates. She obviously wants to do well here, and has the skills to do so, but she is also passionate about being a great lawyer and having a fulfilling career.  To top it off, Lauren is bright, warm, and a joy to speak with.

What have you learned from the process?

I have learned so much from seeing the firm through fresh eyes.  It never hurts to get new perspectives, particularly from those who are recent additions to the firm.  Lauren asks thoughtful questions about topics such as maintaining the right mix of billable and non-billable projects. I also get to share the great advice I have gotten from senior Jenner & Block lawyers in the past.   

Describe a typical meeting.
We often go for coffee, and weather permitting, we’ll take a walk.  We talk about whatever is on Lauren’s mind from workload to training to obtaining feedback.  Lauren is well prepared for our meetings and I feel honored to be giving her advice.  She often asks how I am doing and I try to at least impart some wisdom when talking about my work.

How has this relationship helped you in your role at the firm?

First, it is nice that Lauren and I have offices near one other so that we run into each other a lot in the hallways.  It allows me to check in on her informally.  I could tell that she had a lot going on a month or so back when her door was closed for a few days.  Second, I beam with pride whenever someone speaks highly of her, which happens often.  I always say “Lauren – that’s my mentee.”  Although I have little to do with her success, I am proud nonetheless.

What would you say to others about the value of the mentoring program?

The program is valuable to the firm by helping to integrate new associates into firm life and work. It is also valuable to the mentees who are hungry for guidance.  But what I did not appreciate was how much I would enjoy being a mentor to Lauren.  She is hopeful, positive, and inquisitive.  I can always use an infusion of that kind of energy.
 

April A. Otterberg

Partner

What is your involvement in the firm’s formal mentoring program?
I regularly serve as a mentor to summer associates and first-year associates

What has your relationship been like?
My mentoring relationships are typically quite informal, and we generally meet once a month, although we talk in between as issues arise.  We talk about whatever is on the mentee’s mind about work and his or her career, but we also get to know each other personally as well.

What have you learned from the process?
As a mentor, I have learned that despite differences in practice areas and the like, we all face generally the same challenges and pressures as young lawyers, and we all have those moments where we aren’t sure how to handle a particular situation.   In some ways, being a mentor has helped me to realize just how much I have learned in my own career.

Describe a typical meeting.
My mentee and I typically will go out to lunch.  It’s time where we get out of the office and can discuss generally how my mentee is doing at the firm.  Sometimes, my mentee has specific questions, and other times, we discuss more general topics, such as the recent history of the firm and the direction the firm is heading, how to seek out the work that the mentee wants to do, and how to handle the mentee’s workload.  My goal is to provide direction or an objective perspective if that is what my mentee wants; other times, my mentee simply wants to talk about how his or her work has been lately and to get a sense of how that experience compares to my experience or others’ experiences.  There are also times when I have a relationship with someone in the firm who may able to help my mentee on a particular issue better than I can, and with my mentee’s consent, I will go to that person on my mentee’s behalf.

How has this relationship helped you in your role at the firm?
Serving as a mentor to a young lawyer pushes you to remember the questions you had and the challenges you faced when you began your career.  As a result, I think I am more sensitive to those questions and challenges when I supervise the associates who work on cases with me.

What would you say to others about the value of the mentoring program?
As a young associate, your mentor is an easily accessible resource for all those questions that are bound to come up as you navigate your first few years as a lawyer.  No matter what it is, chances are that your mentor, or someone he or she can put you in touch with, has handled a similar situation before.  At the very least, your mentor is someone who can help you identify theoptions for handling the situation so that you can figure out for yourself what to do.   I love being a lawyer, but there is a lot to learn that is not taught inlaw school.  Your mentor can help guide you through that learning and professional development process.  And by the time you’ve completed the Firm’s formal mentoring program, you have built relationships with several mentors, all of whom can be resources for you as you continue to progress through your career.

Wade A. Thomson

Partner

What is your involvement in the firm’s formal mentoring program?
I’ve been involved as a mentee for three years and a mentor for four years, so I’ve experienced the program from both sides.

What has your relationship been like?
Each mentor/mentee relationship is different and that’s a good thing and it’s the reason you change your mentor/mentee every year.  The constant is that I’ve come to better know attorneys who I would not have otherwise known so well – the program makes our large firm seem smaller.

Whether you are the mentor or the mentee, you end up teaching and learning from your counterpart.  More senior attorneys may be out of touch with what is happening with younger attorneys; junior attorneys may not understand long-term issues without the insight of their mentors.  It’s a two-way street that is mutually beneficial.  Mentees are provided a lifeline to which they have unlimited calls to ask for assistance on any question that comes to mind, whether it involves firm policies, hotel recommendations, or how to file an obscure motion.

What have you learned from the process?
As a mentee, I have learned that relationships at large firms are very important (internal networking is almost as important as external).  The mentor program assists all attorneys to cultivate new relationships at the firm.

As a mentor, I have been constantly reminded of the steep learning curve in the law and how fast you can forget it as you progress in your career.  I have also been reminded of how the law is a continuing education, and teaching is always the best way to master any subject.

Describe a typical meeting.
Typically, a mentor and mentee have lunch at least once a month.  The mentee usually has several questions that have come up in their daily work (most of which the mentor has experienced several times in their own work).  There is also a social component to the meetings, which is just as rewarding as the formal mentoring.

How has this relationship helped you in your role at the Firm?
The mentoring program has helped me grow as attorney, whether as a mentee learning the ropes from my mentor, or as a mentor passing on wisdom to my mentee.  I have become much closer with seven other attorneys, none of whom I knew very well prior to the program.

What would you say to others about the value of the mentoring program?
One of the main values of the mentoring program is perspective.  In a law firm where everyone is busy and focused, it is always helpful to step outside and discuss broader issues with someone you normally do not work with.  Through meetings with mentors and mentees, I have been constantly surprised with how much I have learned and how much more I have to learn.

MARIA C. LIU
Office(s):
Washington, DC
Law Schools(s):
University of Michigan Law School
Started with firm:
2015
ANDREW P. CSOROS
Office(s):
Chicago
Law Schools(s):
University of Notre Dame Law School
Practice Area(s):
Litigation
RITA L. FEIKEMA
Office(s):
Chicago
Law Schools(s):
University of Michigan Law School
Practice Area(s):
Real Estate
Started with firm:
2016
LAUREN J. HARTZ
Office(s):
Washington, DC
Law Schools(s):
Yale Law School
Started with firm:
2017
KALI BRACEY
Office(s):
Washington, DC
Law Schools(s):
Yale Law School
Started with firm:
2017
APRIL A. OTTERBERG
Office(s):
Chicago
Law Schools(s):
Boston College Law School
Started with firm:
2006
WADE A. THOMSON
Office(s):
Chicago and London
Law Schools(s):
University of Illinois College of Law
Started with firm:
2004