When Brandon Vaughn talks about his experience with mentoring, he makes it sound simple: Don’t be scared. Say hello. Show up. As an attorney at Robins Kaplan and a board member with the HCBA, he’s developed a passion for returning the help he’s received over the years.
Vaughn has encountered more hurdles than the typical law school graduate in the Twin Cities. The Chicago native had to put in extra effort to gain a foothold in the legal community. “It's taken work on my part to get there. It wasn't something that was easy. When I first moved to the Twin Cities, it was a bit of a culture shock and I had to deal with some homesickness,” he said. In spite of those challenges, he’s made his mark here. Minnesota Lawyer recently named him an “Up and Coming Attorney” for 2016.
Mentoring has been a huge part of Vaughn’s career development, especially through his involvement with the bar association. “I've gotten to know a lot of good people in the community that way…. Knowing more people and engaging more people; the bar has been a very safe place to build relationships, both professionally and personally,” he said.
Vaughn specifically mentioned his colleague, Robins Kaplan partner, Terry Wade as an influential mentor. The two developed a rapport after meeting when Vaughn was working as a summer associate for Robins. “One of the things that Terry has afforded me is the opportunity to learn skills to become a good trial lawyer, which I'm very appreciative of,” said Vaughn. “He's learned a lot from me by having the opportunity to talk about issues of race and issues of what it's like to be a transplant to Minnesota.”
Vaughn also mentioned Kathleen Flynn Peterson, another partner at Robins. “She took a lot of time early on in my practice to not only introduce me to people in my practice and in our profession, but really serve as a sounding board to overcome some of the obstacles that I had,” said Vaughn.
In addition to these two colleagues, Vaughn also expressed that he had received many other forms of support from the partners at Robins.
There isn’t a magic formula to develop a robust professional network, but it does require stepping out of one’s comfort zone, something Vaughn has excelled at. “The thing I encourage people to do is not be scared. Most lawyers like to talk and talk about themselves. The hardest part for most people is putting themselves in that room to build those relationships and make those connections. Once you get there, if you muster up the courage to get there and take the time to just meet one or two people, then the web can grow.”
In addition to helping out his peers, Vaughn also enjoys helping his clients. “I really like being that beacon of light for my clients, who would otherwise feel like they wouldn't have an advocate or somebody standing up for them,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to help people. When people have lost a loved one or have been injured because of some wrongdoing of someone else, that's when they're most vulnerable and need a good advocate.
This type of relationship building has paid off for Vaughn, literally. “I've gotten a lot of phone calls to investigate cases just based off of the relationships that I've made. There are enough people who do personal injury work to where if I wasn't visible and seen, the work or the opportunities could go to someone else. I think if people know you and they trust you, they will take the time to refer cases to you,” he said.
It really is that simple.