CBA Record May-June 2024


How Mentoring Invigorated My Legal Ca reer

By Ashish L. Sawkar and Cameron Owens Introduction by Nikki Marcotte, CBA Record Editorial Board Member

to protect our country. And now, as an in-house counsel, I routinely seek the wisdom of our senior attorneys to maxi mize my growth, learning, and the poten tial to positively impact my company. I am a product of mentorship. Participat ing in the CBA-YLS Law Student Career Immersion Mentoring Program has been an opportunity for me to finally give back. AS: While mentorship, in general, is an important facet of growth for both mentor and mentee, mentorship in the practice of law provides a mentor with sev eral opportunities: (1) to give back to the legal community that helped the mentor; (2) to contribute to the development of a future member of the legal community; (3) to reinvigorate the mentor’s love of the law by seeing it through the lens of the mentee; and (4) to reflect on the mentor’s own path and express gratitude to those who helped the mentor get to their cur rent position. CO: You mentioned being an assistant state’s attorney. How have your relation ships there formed what you do with your mentees? AS: When I first moved to Chicago to take a job as an ASA, I had so many ques tions and concerns: how would I fit in as an “outsider” in the Chicago legal com munity? What steps did I need to take to forge a path in the office? What roles or responsibilities did I need to take on to improve as an attorney and develop as an asset to the office? While no formal men torship program existed back then, I took it upon myself to develop working rela tionships with senior prosecutors whom I admired. Over coffee or an occasional Chicago dog, we’d sit on the patio at the Daley Center and talk about everything CO: What opportunities do mentors gain in this program?

Ashish L. Sawkar

Cameron Owens

A s a follow-up to an article pub lished in the March/April 2024 edition of the CBA Record relat ing to the CBA-YLS Law Student Career Immersion Mentoring Program, the fol lowing interview provides a more per sonal perspective on the mentor-mentee relationship and how that relationship has shaped one mentor’s outlook on the legal profession. Cameron Owens, a UIC Law student, sat down with her mentor, Ashish L. Sawkar, to ask about the pro gram’s lasting impact and advice Sawkar has for those interested in the program. AS: For virtually every success in my professional life, I’ve traveled down a well-worn path. Every road I’ve taken was previously taken by someone who shared their experiences with me, and I learned and grew from them. As a teacher, I relied on advice from veteran educators to help me succeed in the classroom. As a pros ecutor, I leaned on the examples set by senior assistant state’s attorneys to prop erly serve the public. As an FBI special agent, I relied on those who came before me to ensure I was doing all that I could CO: What made you get into the CBA mentoring program?

from what classes interested me the most during law school, to what my personal goals were in my law career. And while each session was peppered with advice and sentences prefaced with “have you ever considered this,” the sessions stood out for me as something even more spe cial: someone from my profession took an interest in me and my professional growth. Having someone help nurture my career was so much more valuable to me than having an inside track on a job opportunity or a coveted title. It was cer tainly a feeling I wanted to give to a law student when I had the opportunity to pay it forward and do the same. CO: Changing from assistant state’s attorney to the FBI is a world of differ ence. How has being in that field shaped who you are? AS: When I transitioned from pros ecuting to becoming a special agent attor ney with the FBI after the September 11 attacks, I realized that my path wasn’t as well-worn as others. Much of my first five years in the FBI was about develop ing my identity (“agent and attorney”) and understanding that there are many benefits to having a law degree that go

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