Thanks and Recognition of a Great Mentor Amongst Us

I have been a fan or mentoring for a great many years. Today I mention Al Frierson again because he is a great mentor and that is becoming rare in our profession. I do not mean to imply that there are not attorneys out there who take the time to lend some support to a fellow practitioner. Many mentor a bit. What I have learned about Al is that he mentors on a professional level, and more importantly on a personal level. 

I see so many foibles displayed in the legal profession and find myself wondering “where did she/he learn that?” Some of what goes on out there in the practice of law is simply misadventure, attorneys with too little time and too much to get done. Pressure leads to shortcuts, and shortcuts lead to lackluster performance, which is perceived as a lack of professionalism.  

Some of what goes on out in the practice may have deeper roots, and may therefore be more troubling. We have all see behavior that is close to the lines defined by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. We go home at night and cannot get the question from our head, “do I have to report this,” or “should I report this.” It is troubling to be confronted with that internal conflict. No one wants to be his brother’s keeper. Everyone wishes that their opponents followed the rules and displayed courtesy and professionalism. 

We are fortunate to have a few Deans of the practice like Al Frierson scattered amongst us. Some are not as visible as they once were. Each has spent many an hour at the podium over the years, in the limelight. Al Frierson has twice been Chair of the Section, pioneered the concept of Board Certification, and so much more. Now he and other Deans find themselves less willing to endure the limelight. They are out there however, walking and working amongst us.  

I recently had an interesting conversation with Albert Frierson. He was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1963. So he has worked in this profession for over 50 years. That in itself is admirable. He is known throughout the state for his professionalism, so much that The Section named a professionalism award for him. A highlight of my year is always learning who has been most recently honored with the award. I find myself comparing the annual recipient with the award namesake. Namesakes actually, the award also honors Steward Colling, who was also known for his professionalism. 

But what I learned from my recent exchange with Al is that he takes time to mentor. He is the kind of mentor that sees issues on other people’s horizons. He watches people’s lives and like an experienced ship captain he sees the rocky shoals before the less experienced perceive them. He is not a mentor who waits for others to perceive and appreciate the challenges that they are approaching. He is not a mentor who waits to be asked for help or advice. He is a mentor that sees those challenges and reaches out to his mentees.  

Supporting good people is part of what we can do to fix some of what is wrong with the practice. Spotting a ship that is floundering is easy. Answering a distress call when someone is on the rocks is easy. But do we reach out and counsel people when we see the rocks and they do not?  

This effort that Al Frierson makes is admirable to me. It is admirable that he cares about people who are around him in this challenging and stressful profession. It is admirable because he volunteers it, and offers support, friendship and guidance before his mentees even know they need it. He does it subtly and quietly. It is admirable because it transcends professionalism in the practice and is really about the needs of his mentees; their needs as human beings; their growth as human beings; their challenges as human beings.  

Life is short. There are accolades that can be earned, mountains that can be climbed, and challenges that can be conquered. I am sure that Albert Frierson has a wall full of such recognitions earned over his many years. I congratulate and thank him today, however, for his intense interest in other people’s success on a personal and human level and his dedication to being a mentor for those who follow him in this practice we call workers’ compensation. The value of a good mentor cannot be overstated. 

I hope that I have the opportunity to write such praise of many attorneys in the years to come. I hope for all of our sakes that there are a great many Al Friersons in our future as a profession. Will you be one? We need them, should celebrate them, and should thank them. Thank you Al for being who you are, for caring as much as you do, for subtly teaching as you teach, and for continuing to lead as you lead.

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