School of Law mentor program wins ABA professionalism award

The University of St. Thomas School of Law Mentor Externship Program has been awarded the prestigious E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award by the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Professionalism. The annual Gambrell Professionalism Awards recognize projects contributing to the understanding of professionalism among lawyers.

"We are thrilled and honored to be selected for this prestigious award," said Thomas Mengler, dean of the School of Law. "It confirms the responsibility the profession owes to the public. I’m thankful that so many members of the Minnesota legal community who serve as mentors support the program’s focus of professionalism and ethics."

In the award letter, the committee said it was particularly impressed with the "depth and excellence" and the "obvious commitment to professionalism" demonstrated by the Mentor Externship Program.

This is the second time in three months that the Mentor Externship Program has received national recognition from the ABA. In April, the Mentor Externship Program was one of three finalists nationally for an ABA Award for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching Professionalism.

Law schools, bar associations, law firms and other law-related organizations are eligible for the annual Gambrell awards. Since the award was established in 1991, 16 law schools – including Yale, Emory, Cal Berkeley (Boalt Hall), Wake Forest, Fordham, and William and Mary – have been selected among the winners.

"It’s wonderful to be recognized and join such a select group of outstanding law schools, bar associations and law-reform organizations," Mengler said.

St. Thomas’ Mentor Externship Program provides St. Thomas law students with hands-on opportunities to develop a personal union of faith, reason and professional life. A national model for education-based mentor programs, it combines reflective lawyering and experiential learning with a focus on professionalism and ethics.

In each year of their studies, St. Thomas law students are paired with lawyers and judges in the community. Mentors introduce the students to a range of lawyering tasks and judicial activities and share with them the traditions, ideals and skills necessary for successful careers. More than 400 Minnesota lawyers currently take part in the Mentor Externship Program.