New Jersey Law Journal: Catherine P. Wells Recognized the Need for Female Litigators to Have Support and Guidance

Is the role of mentor one that you set out to take, or one you happened into?

It was a little of both. On one hand, CSG has been fortunate to attract a steady pipeline of brilliant, ambitious and intellectually curious attorneys eager to take on challenging projects requiring innovative solutions, as well as seek out senior leadership for guidance upon reaching an impasse. Our firm was also forward-thinking in establishing a Women’s Initiative geared directly toward identifying, developing and enabling the next generation of leaders and providing mentorship, training and policy development initiatives. Many of my opportunities to play the role of a mentor arose from these factors. I did, however, make a conscious decision to one day become amentor to others when I first started practicing law. I noticed that many women, particularly female litigators, left the practice after starting a family, and I recognized the need for them to have someone to provide support and guidance.

Why are mentors so important in the legal profession?

Good mentoring relationships are critical from the very beginning of a legal career. When first starting out, an attorney needs substantive guidance on the practice of law, regardless of the area in which they are practicing. Then, as they progress through the partnership track, every attorney needs someone to provide support regarding professional and client development as both a lawyer and business generator on the path toward developing a successful practice.

Good mentors often have learned from good examples. Who are some people who have mentored you?

I was fortunate to be mentored by a number of terrific litigators at CSG early on in my career, including Arthur Goldstein and Karen Gilman. It is also important to note that maintaining mentor-mentee relationships is critical at all stages of your career. Even today, I often turn to my partners Dennis Toft, Ross Pearlson and Melissa Salimbene for insight and advice on matters ranging from practice management to litigation strategy.

Law is, for many, more than a full-time job. How does one create time for mentorship?

In my experience, mentorship typically happens naturally with people with whom we work. It works best when you take the time with more junior lawyers to use every assignment and interaction as a learning and teaching experience.

How are the business and profession of law changing, and are New Jersey lawyers well-positioned for the future?

The business and profession have been evolving for decades, and lawyers have learned to adapt. The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example of how lawyers have embraced new technology, working remotely, taking virtual depositions, conducting virtual mediations and other court conferences. Many have learned to work even more efficiently and effectively during these critical times.

Reprinted with permission from the September 18, 2020 issue of the New Jersey Law Journal. © 2020. ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

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