Jaime Myers from Caterpillar discusses the importance of mentoring in the workplace

Jaime Myers is litigation corporate counsel at Caterpillar. She oversees product line litigation as well as litigation involving Caterpillar’s industrial and on-highway engines. Alongside a demanding role, Jaime still manages to dedicate time to numerous pro bono initiatives and Caterpillar’s mentoring scheme. Jaime recently won the Outstanding Contribution to Mentoring (In-House) award at the Chambers USA Women in Law 2013 awards and took time to tell us how she first made the transition in-house and how mentoring has had a positive impact on her experience.

Jaime Myers receives the Chambers USA Women in Law Awards 2013: Outstanding Contribution to Mentoring (In-House) award

Jaime began her career at Caterpillar in the financial services division based in Nashville, Tennessee. “I soon relocated to Peoria, Illinois, to manage a products litigation docket, which now includes responsibility for Caterpillar’s on-highway and marine engines, Rail Division, and track-type products.” With the move, the level of responsibility also increased as Jaime began managing internal teams as well as being at the forefront of dealing with external business people.

Jaime immersed herself in her new environment and overcame different challenges with new skill sets. “My move in-house was facilitated by the fact that I was doing essentially the same work at Caterpillar-financial products litigation-that I had done at my previous firm.  I quickly found, however, that many attorneys had a different experience when transitioning from private to corporate practice.  In many instances, the experience of being an in-house lawyer can vary completely from one’s work in a firm, so that the transition is complicated by having to learn new substantive practice areas.” The move in-house also meant a new approach to other business professionals. “In addition, the day-to-day consultation with professionals within the enterprise is often a new experience for lawyers whose legal experience in private practice did not involve first-hand engagement with business people.”

Jaime found one of the best ways of learning new ropes was applying the structured advice and support she received internally at Caterpillar. “The presence of a strong mentoring program is almost a prerequisite for success in a large corporate legal department,” she says. Strong in-house mentoring schemes can provide guidance on across the board issues and Jaime felt that this was a great benefit to her new work practice. “Mentors at Caterpillar provide guidance on almost every aspect of in-house practice such as career exploration, corporate culture, “soft skills” development, organizational understanding, internal enterprise awareness, work-life balance, and community knowledge.”

Having inspirational mentors helped Jaime feel more at ease with her abilities. “When I was a new attorney, nearly all of my anxiety came from not knowing the “right” answer in any given situation.  As I have gotten older in the practice, I have learned that there are best practices, but rarely a “right” answer. I have realized that the help and guidance I’ve received from mentors has been essential in that process.”  Having been an inspired mentee, Jaime now champions the scheme as a mentor to others. “I wholeheartedly believe that having a trusted guide through the unwritten rules of any new workplace is essential, and that is what our mentoring program attempts to provide.”   She is currently part of Caterpillar’s mentoring committee and assists matching new attorneys with mentors.