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It’s a sunny March day in Miami, and the outdoor tables at a cafe next to Biscayne Bay are crowded with carefree tourists and sightseers tipping back drinks and laughing. But at one table, a white woman and a black woman are talking seriously about how to succeed as litigators. “Don’t let your trial partner dump all of the work on you,” says Jacqueline Hogan Scola, Assistant U.S. Attorney and a veteran of 20 years of litigation. “He’ll get by on charm if you let him. You have to kick his butt and make him do his share.” The recipient of this pragmatic counsel is Tanishia Findlay, 24, a second-year law student at the University of Miami who is preparing for a mock trial. Findlay smiles, promises to heed the warning, and goes on to discuss the details of her assignment. The conversation is relaxed and laced with humor. But the law student’s respect for the veteran attorney is obvious. She says she hopes to follow in the footsteps of the older woman, who currently is running for a Miami-Dade circuit judgeship. Findlay says she finds Scola’s experiences and advice invaluable. Scola and Findlay are part of a unique mentoring program for black law students at the University of Miami that now includes some 60 students and almost as many practicing Miami-Dade attorneys. The school has a separate mentoring program for Hispanic students. The goal is to help black students succeed in law school and encourage them to stay in South Florida, in order to expand the sparse pool of black attorneys here, says Marcy Cox, assistant dean for career planning at the UM law school. Many of the black students, Cox notes, are the first in their families to study law, sometimes the first to attend college. So they often have no one who can give them direction in their intended profession. In addition, a study by the school found that many black lawyers trained in South Florida ended up leaving and practicing in urban areas perceived as more open to blacks, such as Atlanta and Washington, D.C. “Miami is not known to be a particularly welcoming place for black attorneys,” says Jason Murray, a partner at Carlton Fields in Miami and past president of the Miami-Dade Black Lawyers Association. Murray, who serves as a mentor in the program, notes that only about a dozen black lawyers are partners in the major Miami-area law firms and that black attorneys make up only about 2 percent of all lawyers here. “We have to make an effort to encourage black law students to remain in school and in Miami.” But at least one observer says that minority mentoring programs are less effective than having well-established attorneys actively teach and promote the careers of young students and minority lawyers. Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a partner at Duane Morris who has served as a minority mentor in the UM program, contends that law firms too often use their in-house mentoring programs as a substitute for serious efforts to promote the careers of minority attorneys. “Mentoring was invented at the time minority lawyers began pushing to be let into the club,” Rodriguez-Taseff wrote in a recent column in the Daily Business Review. “It was designed to divert attention from the traditional patronage system — the one that truly is effective, but only for [white males].” SAVED BY KOZYAK Launched in 1989 as a part of the university’s Professional Opportunities Program, the mentoring project languished as the law school concentrated its resources on finding summer jobs for minority students. But it was revitalized last year, largely through the efforts of John Kozyak, a partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton in Miami. “When the POP program was petering out, I found mentees of my own,” Kozyak recalls. “I told one of them, Alicia Hughes, that if she could find 15 mentees among her classmates, I would find 15 lawyers. Now we’re up to about 50 lawyers.” Kozyak initially recruited mentors among his attorney friends and associates; 10 of the current group work for his law firm. But word got out and other lawyers volunteered. He sends lots of e-mails and places plenty of phone calls to make sure both mentors and mentees stay in regular contact. Last October, Kozyak held a reception at which many law students and practicing attorneys paired off. Meetings between mentors and mentees take place about once a month. Many, like Scola and Findlay, are in touch by e-mail or telephone frequently between face-to-face sessions. Kozyak’s own mentee, Alicia Hughes, 27, graduated in December and has just been hired as an associate at Bilzin Sumberg Dunn Baena Price & Axelrod. Like most mentees in the program, Hughes is the first in her family to become an attorney. Without the program, she says, “there was no entr�e for me into the Miami legal community. Miami is an excellent school, but there are things about the practice of law that you don’t learn in the classroom — the environment of law firms, proper etiquette in legal practice, etc. Those are things I learned from John, and I’m grateful for that.” Kozyak says his goal is to increase the number of talented black attorneys in the Miami area. “Hopefully we’ll help some of these exceptional young people get off to a better start, help them learn what the job opportunities are, that Miami is a good place to live and to practice law.” HELP FINDING JOBS At least privately, many mentees hope their mentor will help them find a good job after they graduate. And the program sometimes accomplishes that, though often indirectly. Kozyak says he aims to help the students meet people in the profession and make useful contacts. “Many students don’t know anyone who has been through this,” he explains. Indeed, many mentees say the program has helped them make contacts that led to job possibilities. Mentee Jeff Cazeau says his mentor, Kozyak Tropin partner Laurel Isikoff, sent his resume to other lawyers and recommended him. When he interviewed at various firms, she provided background that he found useful. Immediately after his graduation in May, Cazeau will start as an associate at Kluger Peretz Kaplan & Berlin in Miami. Kozyak encourages the mentors to show their mentees their own legal work up close. Diedre Shaw Wilder, the first black female partner at Kozyak Tropin, was a mentee as a UM law student and is now a mentor. She says she invites her mentees to law firm meetings where cases are discussed, to go to court with her and to attend depositions. “The whole point is to help them learn what it’s like to be a lawyer,” she says. Mentees also learn about the personal side of lawyering. Wilder, who just returned to practice after having a baby, says her current mentee, Maya Holman, is very interested in the issue she herself is grappling with now — how to balance work and family. WAR STORIES Listening to war stories is an important and fascinating part of participating in the program, says mentee Clarence Nesbitt. He notes that his mentor, Hal Moorefield, of Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson in Miami, has described his experiences with different judges and how cases don’t always turn out the way the textbook says they should. “The law may say jurisdiction is thus and so, but he’s told me about ways that you can sometimes get around that,” Nesbitt says. “He’s made a lot of that experience come to life.” Although almost all of the mentees are black, a majority of the mentors are white. The students say this is not an issue for them. “Black doesn’t matter,” Nesbitt says. “If someone is willing to give the time to help and someone else is willing to listen, that’s all that matters.”

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