Practice Ethics and Mentorship speech to TLS, Dar es Salam, September 2006

Speech to the Tanganyika Law Society on Mentorship on 4 September 2006 in Dar es Salam

Jay Chauhan is a deputy Judge for 15 years and a lawyer in Ontario, Canada for 35 years. Following is the summary of the speech to the Tanganyika Law Society on the 4th September, 2006 in Dar es Salaam attended by the directors of the Law Society and a senior judge.

National Heros

Mwalimu Julius Nyeyere was a remarkable mentor for Tanzania. Nelson Mandela was a mentor for South Africa. Mahatama Gandhi was a mentor for India. These leaders not only lead but also are role models for the societies they serve.

Mentors in Family

Like countries there are role models in families. My parents, both whom were mwalimus and teachers, in Dar es Salaam and our role models. As  teachers they inspired us to be educated and move forward in our lives. Ramesh, my older brother became a surgeon with degreees from England, Canada and US, and my younger brother, Ashwin got his Ph.D. in University of Wales, and became an Engineer. My sister Nalini completed her B.A. degree in Economics in India. I did both law and Economics in England and Germany and Canada. I became a Deputy Judge in the last 15 years in Canada.

Mentors in Law

Role models show examples of what can be done. Mentors as role models actively work with mentees to inspire them and help others achieve their best potential in their professional activity. Law profession is particularly suited to this type of a mentorship arrangement where they meet each other at least once a week and help the mentee to understand what the path to achievement is and where the mentee is at any given time and how to move forward.

Mentorship from Books

Mentorship plays an important part in helping an aspiring professional reach one’s goals and also excelling in it.  In the legal profession traditions and customs are better passed on by role models than text books. The ethics and the nuances of relationship are better understood in personal meetings than reading about it.

English Barrister’s Tradition

England has a formalized this mentorship in the Inns of Court where the barrister learn their trade. The four Inns of Court in England have formal dinner meetings which are attended by the Benchers, lawyers and the students.  As a Barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, England, I have watched and enjoyed the centuries old  tradition of having meetings together with senior members of the Bar who share meals and stories over dinners. Lawyers tell stories of the courts and judges and difficult clients and collection of fees. The dinners and stories create bonds within the group which are difficult to replicate in

other ways. Senior lawyers who have achieved prominence share their secrets of success and inspire the younger bar and show the way to excel in the career of law.

Learning the Customs

The bonding between the junior members and the senior members not only permits the parties to share valuable experiences but also enables them to pass on the best social and ethical traditions of the profession to the new generation of lawyers. The court  room manners are learnt from experienced members or mentors; how do you address the judge and the opposing counsel? When do you stand up? How do you dress?

Ontario, Canada Traditions

In Ontario, and Canada where I practice the society has become very multicultural and lawyers and citizen share many different customs and cultures. In that atmosphere, mentorship becomes more relevant in explaining and passing on the traditions of the profession.  Through mentorship new members of the profession as well as those aspiring to become members can learn the traditions of the legal profession and gain valuable knowledge of the way the profession works. This is knowledge is not easily found in the text books of law and books cannot inspire others as individuals can.

Ontario Law Society

Law Society of Upper Canada of Ontario started the mentorship programme in the last about 10 years. It is relatively new. The profession in Ontario was started by 6 Barristers from England in about 1896. The new mentorship programme is still being developed and not fully embraced by the profession. The profession is not as old as it is in England.

Legal Training, Ontario

Ontario provides one of the longest training for law in the world and is considered to be one of the best. However, it takes a very long time, usually about 8 and a half years to study and qualify as a lawyer in Ontario, Canada. You need a first degree to get into the law programme; then LSAT to qualify in the law programme and then the law degree of 3 years and finally the bar admission course which includes the articling period where you work under a principal to train in the practical aspects of the law profession. Going through this programme is like running a marathon. A mentor in such a long programme can help and guide you through the difficult decisions that a student must make in his career at different stages. He works like a coach and can help choose and which areas to specialize and what subjects to study.

Support in Early years of practice

A mentor can also help in the initial years of practice and help the new member choose the right specialty and show the way to finding clients and introduce the new lawyer to the community and help make many decisions in the first few years of practice.  For senior members it is second nature, but for the new persons in the profession it takes effort to learn the ropes. A mentor can help you find a sense of direction and overcome some of the hurdles that one faces when you have no one to turn to.

Support in the middle years of practice

Mentorship does not end with early years of practice. If you want to be a judge there is not much literature available to tell you how to become a judge. The forms are easy to find, but it is the contacts that you need.  The types of questions to address are “Should you get to know your M.P.? How do you get to know him? Should you get involved in politics? “A mentor can help understand the intricacies of moving forward in the profession and make right connections to help you move forward.

Sharing moments together

Mentor and mentee relationship does not need to be all work and no play. Developing a good relationship between mentor and mentee can be done in congenial environment; over dinner meetings, coffee or by sharing a common interest. A mentor can be particularly helpful showing the mentee how to balance a difficult and demanding career with fun and enjoyment without compromising one’s career.

Ethical Issues

In the legal profession one makes many decisions which borders on ethics. These ethical principles are best learnt through role models who show to you how to achieve the best in your career without ever compromising the ethical principals. Legal profession as a whole is steeped in tradition but still continues to evolve new ethos and conduct more suited to contemporary society and these changes are better accomplished through mentorship in addition to the process of discipline and sanctions.

Will to achieve

To achieve the best in your profession you need persistence and tenacity, both for the mentor and mentee. For this we have a saying in Swahili “Penye niya, pana njiya”, where there is a will we can find the way to achieve difficult goals in the legal care

Future contacts

Today with the use of messengers and emails it is possible to have mentors even outside of your jurisdictions. You may face ethical and difficult decisions in dealing with your local institutions and mentors outside your jurisdiction can be helpful. If your bar in Tanzania wishes to have seminars with our bar associations in Canada I will be very pleased to help arrange that.

Jay Chauhan