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Finding the lawyer mentor to help you succeed in your career trajectory

“Forewarned is forearmed.” I adopted that as one of my guides. Nowhere is that more true than in the lawyer mentor selection process within AHLA.

oklahoma city health care attorney mary richard

Mary Holloway Richard

I want to share some thoughts with you to make your selection more likely to lead to a meaningful mentor relationship to help you along your path in this broad, ever-changing field we have chosen.

I am passionate about many things, including mentoring and AHLA. While I mentor within my state and community, the focus there is often on facilitating connections for young lawyers looking for a job or a career change. Within AHLA, mentors additionally provide a safe place to discuss difficult issues – both legal and human relations – as well as inspiration and support to other lawyers. We have the opportunity to help other health lawyers along their career path, and to learn from those mentees.

Yet, while AHLA members may share similar passions and goals, that is not a strong basis for selection. Rather, there is a bit of magic to being selected. Obviously you need to be as transparent as possible about your goals, areas of interest (“Mentoring Topics”), and your member profile. As much information as you can share is important because you never know what it is that will draw a potential mentor to you. For example, in addition to substantive areas of health law of interest to me, I am interested in supporting young women balancing commitments to family, profession, and community. In reviewing recent mentee applications, I found that I connected with those who provided enough information so that I could connect with them., such as the young mother on the partnership track who still worked to contribute to her community and another who had moved from an in-house position to a private practice (as I did). Some of those who did not provide enough information in their profiles left me without a basis for connecting with them. I even suggested to some that they revise their profiles to tell their story and state their objectives more clearly.

In the spirit of wishing you the most satisfying, helpful, and inspiring mentor-mentee relationship, I will distill my thoughts down to the following messages of motivation:

Your story is interesting so tell enough of it – education, family, job path, current position. Let prospective mentors get to know you a bit.

Share your professional dreams, goals, objectives. Readers won’t know if they can be proper lawyer mentors without this information. Allow a prospective mentor to properly select you as his or her mentee based upon your objectives and common or complementary skill sets. You may also create a connection via disparate experiences and different skill sets, so pique the prospective mentor’s curiosity with sufficient information to determine if you two are a match.

If you want someone to provide feedback about a specific area, such as interfacing with the FBI or handling OIG investigations, or if you want your mentor to assist you in connecting within AHLA, be sure to mention those goals.

You must sell yourself truthfully, so don’t despair if it takes some time to connect with just the right mentor.

Finally, once connected to a Mentor, engage with that Mentor. AHLA recommends quarterly contact as a minimum. The responsibilities to create a meaningful relationship belong to both parties, as do the benefits of the relationship. Mentoring is a two-way street, and you will get out of it what you put into it, but it will be much less effective and satisfying – for both the mentor and mentee – if you fail to provide sufficient information upon which to base the relationship.


This Oklahoma healthcare law topic regarding mentoring was featured in the June 2018 issue of Connections, the official publication of the American Health Lawyers Association.

By Mary Holloway Richard

Mary H. Richard heads up the Health Care Practice Group at the law firm of Phillips Murrah, headquartered in Oklahoma City. Mary has a law degree from George Washington University and a master’s degree in public health administration from the Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She began her career in ambulatory care, health services research, and health management consulting at the Texas Medical Center. She has practiced health law in private practice settings and as in-house counsel for the INTEGRIS Health system. While at INTEGRIS, she provided legal counsel on issues regarding behavioral health services, hospital operations, clinical research activities, and a variety of other topics in a number of facilities throughout the system. She is active in the AHLA and is a part of the AHLA Behavioral Task Force leadership. She served as subcommittee co-chair of the Providers/Clinicians subcommittee, Vice Chair of Publications, Vice Chair of Strategic Planning and Special Projects, and is currently Vice Chair of Membership. She continues to be active in the AHLA mentoring program by mentoring six young professionals and is an active mentor to lawyers in Oklahoma who are interested in health law. Mary is also a proud member if the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Her grandfather was one of the first lawyers in Indian Territory.

Attorney mentors struggling student through tutoring program

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Attorney Dominic Williams with his Whiz Kid, Omar at a OKC Thunder game

When Omar failed the first grade and saw his friends move on, it became important to not only teach him the necessary information he needed to pass but to also not let him feel defeated.

“My biggest thing was to build confidence,” Phillips Murrah Associate Attorney Dominic Williams said. “I wanted him to feel good. I wanted him to feel like, ‘It doesn’t matter that I failed—I’m failing forward. I’m going to do something better because of this.’ ”

Dominic has been working with Omar through CityCare’s Whiz Kids program every Thursday for the past two school years.

“I know that passing the bar is not the sum of my own knowledge but rather people helping me along the way, so I need to give back. If I become a lawyer or if I become professional, that is not the end of the story. I cannot be focused on me.” – Dominic Williams

Whiz Kids is a one-on-one volunteer tutoring and mentoring program for elementary school students, targeting inner-city schools and students who are reading below grade level.

“I wanted to give my time and really give back because a lot of people didn’t have the same opportunities that I might have had,” Dominic said. “I want to present them with a different world.”

Mentors with their Whiz Kids on an outing

Mentors with their Whiz Kids on an outing

Tutors work in pairs to pick up their Whiz Kids from their homes and drive to a designated church to work with them on their problem areas. Whiz Kids is a faith-based program where kids are given lunch and bible study before working with their tutors for about an hour and a half.

“They bring their homework, their spelling words and their vocabulary words for the week,” he said. “We also work with them on reading. Usually, reading is their toughest, especially for Omar who comes from a Spanish-speaking household. We really work on trying to get him on track with English words and application of English translation.”

The one-on-one interaction Whiz Kids have with their mentors has a double benefit, allowing them to focus on the areas they need to improve while building a trusting relationship.

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Omar named “Star of the Week” at school

“It’s great to have someone to talk to the kids, because all they really want is attention,” Dominic said. “I talk to him about everything. He told me he was struggling with bullying. I gave him some advice and had an opportunity to meet the other kid with the teacher present and told him the importance of taking care of everyone and making sure you’re not singling out anyone because that wouldn’t feel good for you. And, as simple as that is, it actually helped out and they are best friends now.”

Thanks to the strides he has made, Omar will move on to the third grade in the coming school year.

“He has made significant changes in his reading, math and speech fluency testing scores,” Dominic said. “He is no longer considered to be academically at-risk.”

Those interested in volunteering or learning more about the Whiz Kids program can visit whizkidsok.org.

“The important to remember is that kids often need your help, they just don’t say it,” Dominic said. “Being focused on others is probably the most important thing anyone can be charged with.”