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A Conversation with Maureen Jenner and Molly Dugan

Meaningful Mentoring at Husch Blackwell

When Husch Blackwell paired Summer Associate Maureen “Mo” Jenner and Senior Associate Molly Dugan in a mentoring relationship in June 2020, neither could foresee the impact it would have on each of them. With COVID cases spiking, necessitating that Maureen’s experience be virtual, the circumstances were less than ideal. Yet, what emerged with the firm’s support was the professional and personal development of both women. “Giving us resources and tools to develop and nourish this relationship has been awesome,” said Molly, “and is what I was looking for when I came to the firm as a lateral attorney hire [in late 2018]. The mentorship program is very, very important to everybody here.”

HUSCH BLACKWELL (HB): Molly, what inspired you to become a mentor?

MOLLY DUGAN (MD):  I have been fortunate enough to have wonderful mentors in my career. Those positive mentor relationships have inspired me to pay it forward and try to provide great mentorship experiences for others. Through positive experiences, I hope to inspire others to be mentors as well.

HB: What were you seeking from your mentor relationship when you came to Husch Blackwell?

MD: I was looking for practical guidance, someone who could champion my work but also give me effective feedback. I was looking for someone who remembered what it was like to be a mentee and who could reassure me that insignificant mistakes were not career-enders. When I came to Husch Blackwell, I was given a wonderful mentor who has fulfilled all of those requirements and has been instrumental in my career path here.

HB: Maureen, how did you learn that Molly was going to be your mentor?

MAUREEN JENNER (MJ): Molly was assigned as my mentor when I was a summer associate, and after that summer I kept in touch with her. She helped me through my 3L year, and even called me before the bar exam to offer some words of encouragement. When I started at Husch Blackwell in September 2021, I was hoping Molly would still be my mentor, but I knew that wasn’t necessarily how it worked.

I was really pleased when Molly told me she’d be my firm mentor because I knew that she was invested in my career, and we’d built a really solid foundation already. Joining a firm the size of Husch Blackwell and moving to a new city can be intimidating, but knowing that Molly was there was reassuring. Molly has been a life mentor just as much as she’s been a firm mentor.

HB: Maureen, what specifically made you want to continue the mentoring relationship with Molly after you joined the firm?

MJ: Molly is incredibly authentic. She’d already been there for my virtual summer, and I knew that I could count on her. Even though I was two hours away from St. Louis during the summer, she had been an incredible resource. She set up opportunities for me to build my network and gain invaluable experience. She was there to keep me level-headed and help me to understand situations. That’s continued through my first year as well.

HB: Let’s talk logistics. You’re both in St. Louis, but Molly, you’re part of the firm’s virtual office, The Link. Do you get together, or is mentoring conducted over the phone? And do you have an agenda, or is it more informal?

MD: The answer is yes to all of those things! We have a formal set monthly meeting, but we also find time to talk throughout the week. It’s important to get in-person face time because you can only do so much over the phone or virtually. Things progress naturally during a conversation when you’re in person more so than they do when you’re virtual. I like to see Mo as much as possible, as our mentor/mentee relationship has certainly progressed into a friendship.

MJ: I agree completely. Usually our conversations are organic, but if it’s a particularly busy time for either one of us, I will jot down questions I have for her and stick to that if time is tight. Even if we’re not able to touch base officially, I know I’m able to text her as well. 

HB: The numbers show that there are far fewer women in the legal field who are attorneys, so was having a female mentor important to you?

MJ: I didn’t intentionally set out to have one. But I’m incredibly grateful that it worked out this way. Molly understands being a woman in the legal field, and I am able to go to her with any experience and know that she’s very likely to have had a similar experience of her own. It has become important to me to have that relationship.

MD: Because there are still so few female lawyers in the industry, it was almost a bigger call to action to be a female mentor. We have many accomplished female leaders at our firm, and their achievements have made it possible for Mo and me to foster a female mentor/mentee relationship and honor that legacy of leadership.

HB: That makes a lot of sense. So, Maureen, what is the best advice Molly has given you thus far?

MJ: Law school is very comparative, which is different than the firm’s culture. Molly has helped me remember that everybody’s on their own journey here. She offers perspective when I feel like I should be further along than I am or when I get a project that is overwhelming. She grounds me in the realization that I’m very early in my legal career. There really is not a timeline on this. To be able to talk to her about those insecurities or those moments in high-pressure situations is priceless.

HB: Well done, Molly.

MD: Mo makes it easy. She is coachable and always rises to any occasion. She’s a team player and isn’t afraid of a challenge.

HB: How has this mentoring relationship affected you or influenced the way you practice law?

MD: The relationship has had a positive influence. In fact, I recently started implementing a practice tip I received from Mo: write down and acknowledge the things I have done well throughout the week, even the things that feel small. Too often we focus on the things that we don’t do well, and Mo’s practice is a good reminder to acknowledge our successes because it is easy to miss the small accomplishments that occur throughout the week as they happen so fast. But if you memorialize them, they can change your whole mindset.

HB: What are some of the unexpected benefits you’ve discovered from this experience?

MJ: One unexpected benefit, that Molly touched on earlier, is friendship. It is amazing, especially in a new city, to have a support system.  To have someone close by who can be a constant in a situation with a lot of variables is very comforting.

MD: Certainly the friendship. But also, as you get into your career you forget how big the small things felt when you were first starting out. This mentor relationship has challenged me to step back and remember how I felt when I was beginning my career. So rather than just give advice from where I am now, I also give advice from where I was then. That’s been an invaluable takeaway for me.

MJ: To add to that, Molly has been a great yardstick for the last 10 months. If I experience something now that doesn’t freak me out as much as it used to, she’ll remind me of how I had been overwhelmed by a similar task earlier on in my career. So, I am learning and growing.

HB: That's a great segue to this final question. Molly, what is the biggest change that you have seen in Maureen since your relationship began?

MD: Confidence; Mo is finding her groove. Her work is amazing; it always has been. But I think her confidence in that work has grown. And I guess ultimately, one of my goals as a mentor is to ensure that the confidence of my mentee grows with each passing day.

Molly Dugan is a recipient of the HB Mentor Spotlight Award.