Cultivating a Culture of Mentorship
By: Carrie Stevenson
As a law firm, Widerman Malek prides itself on providing exceptional service to its clients. But their commitment to excellence does not end with effective legal representation. Each of Widerman Malek’s 23 attorneys is firmly invested in giving back to the community through charitable involvement and advocacy, as well as developing innovative solutions to address emerging business needs of their clients. This dedication to legal expertise, community engagement, and business development requires experience and discipline, so the firm emphasizes a culture of training and mentorship between senior lawyers and their colleagues.
“This mentoring practice really speaks to a core value of Widerman Malek, one of openness and partnership,” says Mark Malek, the firm’s managing partner and a registered patent attorney. “With a rich tradition of mentorship, all of our attorneys work together to provide the very best service to our clients and community, drawn from a collective body of legal knowledge, charitable commitment, and practical business experience.”
With 27 distinct practice areas, the firm covers a great deal of legal ground. While every attorney at the firm brings professional expertise and practical experience to the table, the decades spent in consultation and the courtroom by the most seasoned lawyers can be a gold mine for their colleagues when facing a new challenge.
For Edward J. Kinberg (University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law, J.D. 1978), one of Widerman Malek’s experts in government contracts, construction, and business law, his thirty-plus years of legal experience can help shore things up when others need guidance. “My goal on the more senior side is to provide actionable insight into the realities of how the legal world can sometimes work, instead of how it should work,” Kinberg explains. “Over the course of three decades in practice, you learn a few ways to tighten up the timeframe on getting things done.”
Kelly G. Swartz (Barry University School of Law, J.D. 2008), merged her practice with Widerman Malek in 2015 and was an engineer with Harris and GE prior to attending Barry University. Swartz, the director of the firm’s emerging Unmanned Aircraft Systems law group and a registered patent attorney, notes that despite her extensive experience, an open channel of communication between the firm’s attorneys facilitates important pragmatic exchanges. “It’s valuable to be able to go to more experienced colleagues to get their opinions on certain legal matters that we are working on. Their feedback based on past experience can be very valuable to our clients.”
The firm prides itself on its tradition of community engagement, and practices their dedication to charitable giving in numerous ways. The No Bad Days Foundation, founded by the firm and administered by Mark Warzecha, benefits children with disabilities in Brevard County through the purchase of life-improving medical devices and other necessities. Their attorneys also sit on the boards of many community organizations, and the scope of the firm’s reach into charitable and nonprofit foundations is vast. Attorneys are involved with or are directors or board members of No Bad Days Foundation, The M.O.R.G.A.N Project, The Melbourne Regional Chamber of East Central Florida, Brevard PALS, Space Coast Community Law School, West Melbourne Business Association, United Way of Brevard County, Nana’s House, Brevard Bar Foundation, Circles of Care, Inc., Friends of Sally’s House, March of Dimes, Junior Achievement, The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Space Coast Early Intervention Center, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Promise of Brevard, Melbourne Mainstreet, Sentinels of Freedom – Space Coast Chapter, Epilepsy Association of Central Florida, The Children’s Hunger Project, Bridges Foundation, Rolling Readers, Promise in Brevard, weVENTURE, and Brevard Public Schools Foundation.
Widerman Malek’s culture of mentorship for attorneys is evident in their approach to community engagement as well. “Clients need to see and understand that community is incredibly important to us,” explains Kinberg. “We encourage our younger colleagues to contribute to the growth, development, and health of our community through meaningful involvement in these organizations. Service on these boards and in these areas also fosters a sense of teamwork and develops leadership and communication skills. So it’s a rewarding experience for all of us both personally and professionally.”
Malek explains “this is the community where our children and grandchildren are being raised, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we are positively impacting our community to make it a better place for all Brevard County residents. This community has supported our firm since it was founded in 2003, and it would be irresponsible not to provide that support right back.”
Seeing and Responding to Opportunity
Development – a core principle of both mentorship and community outreach – is also a vital component of any business plan, and Widerman Malek has big plans for the future. “From a business perspective as a law firm, we must keep our eyes open for emerging fields and identify what people need help with,” Malek says.
Widerman Malek has found such a field in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones. Their UAS/Drone law group, headed by Swartz, provides individuals and businesses with advice and assistance related to the commercial and recreational use of drones and unmanned vehicles. From training the Satellite Beach Police Department on how to handle calls about nuisance drones to helping Palm Bay develop regulations on UAS operations, Widerman Malek has established itself as an expert in this space. Encouraging attorneys to seek out and seize these business opportunities ensures that the firm – and any organization looking to stay fresh – has a bright future.
At the firm, the practice of mentorship is really a two-way street. “We all come to Widerman Malek with professional experience and a commitment to being leaders in our field, so there’s a lot of mutual respect between all the attorneys at the firm,” Swartz says. Mentoring makes young attorneys better and keeps more senior attorneys sharp, concludes Malek. “It’s really ingrained in the culture of our firm as the best way to foster excellence.”◆
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