We hope these comments from mentors and mentees will help further explain the program and give you some ideas for being a better mentor or mentee.
Class of 2014
November 2012 – Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines a “mentor” as “a trusted counselor or guide.” The Kozyak Minority Mentoring Picnic is the quintessential example of an event that provides exactly what the definition states. As a New York native who moved down to Florida for law school, I literally showed up to my empty apartment in August 2011 with nothing but money in my pocket and 2 suitcases full of clothes. I did not have any family members in Florida, and prior to law school my “network” only consisted of a single “friend of a friend.” As a first generation Nigerian-American, my family had little to no ties to the law, let South Florida. To be honest, it was a difficult period for me. Attending the Kozyak Picnic and the pre-picnic receptions helped me transition and really showed me what the South Florida legal community looked like. I was humbled by the opportunity to meet so many attorneys, judges, consultants, accountants, and other professionals who came out to willingly support and find diverse students to mentor. I was literally blown away. Since the Picnic, I have had the opportunity to speak to lawyers and judges who have not only answered my questions about practice areas of interest, but have assisted me with exam preparation, helped me explore Miami, and have been excellent counselors to me. Because of the kindness that I experienced at the Picnic, I am motivated to pay it forward and help students that come after me. To some, this picnic may be a chance to just meet others, but for students like myself, it means more than words can describe. Thank you to everyone involved in making sure that diverse students have dictionary-worthy examples of what a mentor should be like.
Student at Florida Coastal School of Law, 2L
March 2012 – I am writing to ask you to support Mr. Kozyak’s foundation and annual picnic. Not only does Mr. Kozyak talk the talk, but he walks the walk. I am a minority student who completed a brief form at the picnic. As a result, Mr. Kozyak contacted me himself: he actually wanted to help. He gave me honest feedback about my resume and answered my questions via email. As minority students, we need mentors to be honest with us and point us in the right direction. We understand mentors are extremely busy, but a quick review of a resume and point in the right direction will go far. Mr. Kozyak’s feedback helped me to obtain a federal judicial externship for the summer. Thank you, mentors. A small investment goes a long way.
Leigh-Ann Buchanan, Esq.
Associate, Berger Singerman
September 2011 – The mentoring program opened doors to levels of personal and professional growth that were otherwise unattainable without the guidance and dedicated investment that each one of my mentors made in my development. My mentors taught me about the important aspects of the legal profession that extended beyond the standard law school curriculum. I learned the value of candor, the impact of responsiveness, and the significance of service to clients, my community, and colleagues.
Just by virtue of their experience, mentors can effortlessly advise, challenge, and encourage. Mentees provide an opportunity to positively impact the life and career of young attorney. A mentoring relationship is reciprocal learning experience that is fun, fulfilling, and can be shared by all who take the time participate this exceptional program.
Rochelle N. Willis, Esq.
Associate, Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin
August 2011 – I was assigned a mentor through John Kozyak’s mentoring program as a 1L student at the University of Miami School of Law. The University’s Black Law Students Association also endeavored to provide 1L students with upper class mentors, but having a mentor who was already engaged within the legal profession was invaluable. I met with my mentor, Jennifer, on various occasions. It was a relief and inspiration to hear from a person who had recently been in my shoes but was now a successful attorney who was happy within her profession. John’s mentoring picnic and networking events also helped to get me acclimated to Miami’s minority bar. It was encouraging to see familiar faces at these events and to meet with other people who shared similar experiences and goals. John and Jennifer made my first year of law school, and the ensuing years, a much more comfortable and manageable experience by giving me the confidence and composure to embrace my calling. I hope to invoke the same sense of confidence in the students that I now mentor.
Andre D. Pierre, Esq.
Mayor, City of North Miami
June 2011 – I’ve learned that being a mentor is a choice and that every time I choose to truly make an effort to get to know my mentees I am rewarded with an opportunity to continue my mission to make a positive difference.
My experiences as a mentor and an attorney have allowed me to explore other avenues in life and develop skills to become:
• A motivational speaker
• A career guide and counselor to family and friends
• A role model
• An adviser
• An achiever
• A catalyst for reflection upon my own practice
And as a mentor, I have been presented with various opportunities to:
• Develop personal and professional skills
• Network with other professionals
• Amplify career and professional development
“Mentoring helps me know that I am doing more than just my job each day, hopefully I am helping someone else get more out of their career.” ______________________________________________________________________________________
Marlon A. Hill, Esq.
Partner – delancyhill, PA
June 2011 – A mentor-mentee relationship is both a professional and personal bond that is committed to a set of mutual expectations and rewards. The KMMF is one of Florida’s key nurturing grounds for these relationships in the legal profession. I am confident that this movement will transform our profession and the soul of our relationships for generations.
Everyone needs a mentor or to give of themselves to a mentee at different phases of their career and life. KMMF opens this door and creates this opportunity. ______________________________________________________________________________________
Associate, Carlton Fields
June 2011 – As a law student, the mentoring program provided me with an opportunity to connect with many leaders in the legal community. As a young associate-attorney, I am now comfortable networking and interacting in any setting because of my constant interaction with various mentors throughout law school. The Kozyak Mentoring Program helped me make a confident transition from a law student to a practicing attorney. Now that I have the opportunity to mentor students, I find the experience to be rewarding because I am able to connect with future leaders in the legal community. ______________________________________________________________________________________
University of Miami School of Law, Class of 2011
June 2011 – As you talk with your mentor and attend events together, you’re learning more about each other. This is significant because you’re building the foundation for a bond that will last beyond law school, and throughout your career. As a mentee in the Kozyak Minority Mentoring Program, I was able to develop a mentorship with a role model and someone that I can always turn to for advice. My mentor has taught me about professionalism, and exposed me to events and opportunities, that would have otherwise been out of my reach or nearly impossible without her.
I’m looking forward to the day when I myself become a mentor, to help other law students see and experience the big picture as my mentor has done for me. Becoming a mentor would be a way to remain involved with a program that has positively impacted my law school experience, and to contribute to strengthening our legal community.______________________________________________________________________________________
University of Miami School of Law, Class of 2012
June 2011 – During my first year of law school, I had the great opportunity of attending the Minority Mentoring Picnic hosted by John Kozyak. A fellow law student and friend cautioned me to push pass the urge to use the picnic as a much needed break or an occasion to enjoy the company of my friends and great food. She challenged me to take advantage of the many networking opportunities to which the picnic was designed to introduce me. I listened to her advice and it resulted in a wonderful experience. Through the picnic, I was able to meet two incredible mentors, Assistant United States Attorney James Weinkle and Magistrate Judge Chris McAliley.
My mentors have committed their time and resources to ensuring my success in law school. They took a strong interest in my future by providing me with guidance and support. They also served as great sounding boards as I encountered challenging experiences during my first year. When I called Mr. Weinkle, worried that my contracts class was sure to destroy the GPA I had worked so hard to attain in my first semester, he was more than willing to engage in a two and a half hour impromptu tutoring session on how to understand and apply the UCC code. His time and effort resulted in my receiving the CALI Award in Contracts in recognition of achieving the highest grade in the class. He also edited my practice exam answers to help improve my writing. Judge McAliley warmly opened her chambers to me and offered great advice on choosing career paths, looking for summer internships, and developing essential skills to increase my marketability and job prospects. The value of mentorship should never be underestimated. Because of my mentors’ willingness to share their challenges and experiences with me, I did not have to tackle the daunting first year of law school alone. Their mentorship has deeply enriched my law school experience and has greatly contributed to the success I have accomplished during my first year.
For the remainder of my law school career, I will be the voice that encourages incoming minority students to not only enjoy the food and fun, but to meet those who are willing to impart wisdom and guide them to success. I will be the one to inform them that mentorship is invaluable. Who knows, maybe they will share in my luck. Not only did I gain two outstanding mentors but I also won box seat tickets to a Miami Heat game! I truly enjoyed the picnic and the wonderful experiences it afforded me. I appreciate John Kozyak’s tireless efforts to expose minorities, who otherwise may not have the opportunity, to mentors in the legal field. I would encourage everyone to take part in the Minority Mentoring Picnic. Mentoring truly works.______________________________________________________________________________________
James A. Weinkle
Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney
June 2011 – For most of my 23 years of practice, I have quietly given of my time doing pro bono service and anonymously serving as a mentor to any law student or young associate that I met who cared to have a mentor. Moreover, like many, I gave of my time, anonymously helping people in need…from elderly people to young children. I also served on the boards of not-for-profit organizations from time to time. When the Minority Mentoring Picnic was founded, I went. I tried to go for most of the years I have been in town if I was not working on the Saturday of the Picnic. I first started going when I was a partner at Duane Morris and then I continued when I became an Assistant United States Attorney several years ago. I have met wonderful students and people along the way and the last several picnics were no exception.
Two years ago, I didn’t find a mentee until I sat down to eat. I introduced myself and asked the woman sitting across from me if she had a mentor. She said her name was Quinshawna Landon and she did not have a mentor. I offered myself up. She accepted and I followed up when I got home. So began an incredibly enriching experience that continues to this day and will likely continue throughout our respective careers. I told Quin to call me and email me whenever she wanted. I gave her advice at the beginning of and throughout her first year of law school (and we have continued throughout her law school and summer work experiences). My advice extended from how to study for law school to preparing for classes to breaking down legal concepts to helping her refine her writing. I worked with her before exams and helped her understand how to write a better law school exam answer after she sent to me a draft answer from a practice exam. She worked very hard and I mentored.
Quin is now sitting in the top 7% of her class. She won the University of Miami School of Law’s 2010 and 2011 Moot Court Competitions and the CALI Excellence for the Future Award which recognizes academic excellence for her work in contracts. Quin also won a Dean’s Certificate of Achievement award as one of the top one or two students in Legal Rearch and Writing and Advanced Moot Court. She was invited to join the University of Miami Law Review and Moot Court Board. Her casenote will be published in the Fall 2011 edition of the University of Miami Law Review.
While Quin is obviously an extraordinary woman and would likely have excelled even if I had not been in the picture, I know you know what I mean when I tell you that I cannot describe how much I have gotten out of this experience. Quin believes, as I do, that Mentoring Works.
Thank you for doing what you do John. The community is better for it. The legal world is better for it. I am better for it.
University of Miami School of Law, Class of 2013
May 2011 – You will often hear successful people express some words of gratitude to a mentor who helped them along the way. There are many benefits to having a mentor, but the most important benefit is that a mentor is the person who will advise you when you are simply uncertain about what to do next. Life is full of uncertainties, especially for law students preparing to enter the legal field. The reality is that no amount of previous life experience or work experience can substitute for the advice and assistance of someone who has gone through obstacles that await a law student or a new attorney. Success is built on a number of factors, but sound advice from knowledgeable mentor is at the top of list. ______________________________________________________________________________________
Mark P. Schnapp, Esq.
Co-Chair, White Collar Criminal Practice – Greenberg Traurig
May 2011 – I was paired as a mentor to David Moreno by John Kozyak almost three years ago as David began his first semester of law school at the University of Miami. I spent a lot of time with David speaking to him about school and career challenges. David, who was an out of state student, also spent time with my family at various events. The experience for me was extremely rewarding as I watched David grow to become a school leader and moot court champion. Based upon my experience with David, I think that the mentoring program keeps the legal community in touch with the challenges facing minority students both in school and in the job market. As a mentor, I became invested in David’s success at school and now as a young lawyer. I will continue to be his mentor and friend as he embarks on his career as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan. I have not doubt that, in short order, David will become a leader in the New York legal community.