Posted in: Lawyers None, Awards

Working as a lawyer is stressful—even for the most seasoned professionals. Add in the pressure of just starting out, and the job can get overwhelming fast. Thanks to South Carolina attorneys like David Koysza, Jane Merrill and Stephanie Nye, the next generation of lawyers have outstanding mentors to turn to for support.

These three attorneys were recognized as the joint recipients for the 2019 Mentor of the Year Award given by the S.C. Supreme Court’s Lawyer Mentoring Program, which is administered through the SC Bar. 

“South Carolina was on the forefront in the nation in developing a lawyer mentoring program. Years later, experience has proven that South Carolina did it right,” said South Carolina Supreme Court Justice John Kittredge. “Our lawyer mentoring program has enabled new members of our profession to begin their professional journey under the compassionate supervision of caring mentors who exemplify the highest standards of excellence and integrity.”

Koysza, Merrill and Nye were recognized during a luncheon ceremony May 9 in Columbia.

Read more about their contributions to their mentees and the legal profession below.

David Koysza, Charleston

David Koysza, who currently works as senior counsel at Boeing South Carolina, went above and beyond to invest in the career and life of his mentee, Victoria Watson. The first time they met, he came prepared with a list of books to recommend to her, and they chatted about his life and career experience.

“At every meeting, David was kind, welcoming and prepared. He did not rush our meetings or attempt to skirt around conversation points. He addressed every part of the mentor syllabus, but also more,” said Watson. “We often talked about how to be better and what it means to have good character and to be perceived and remembered that way.”

He introduced real-life examples about ethics and would allow Watson to form her own opinions on the proper actions to take. After she shared her thought process, he explained the approach he would take, allowing her to develop her decision-making skills. He also helped prepare her for an upcoming trial with a gentle reminder to, “be fascinated, not fascinating.” By this, he meant to stay calm and embrace the challenge ahead.

Koysza is also a youth soccer coach, a board member of the Association Corporate Counsel and a devoted husband and father. His practical advice and way of leading by example made him a stand-out choice for the Mentor of the Year Award.

“He has been a role model as a lawyer and a genuine person,” said Watson. “He exemplifies constant growth and self-reflection.”

Jane Merrill, Greenwood

As a lawyer, wife, mom of two, Mock Trial coach and part-time actress at her local theater, Jane Merrill has a jam-packed schedule. However, Merrill, who works at Hawthorne Merrill Law in Greenwood, found time to give back to the next generation of legal professionals.

A first-time mentor in the Lawyer Mentoring Program, Merrill took Daenayia Hudson under her wing and made a lasting impact on the life of her mentee. Merrill and Hudson have been on countless lunch and dinner dates and exchanged numerous texts and emails about career, life, struggles and triumphs. Hudson shared that when she was seeking employment, Merrill pushed her and helped her realize her self-worth. She encouraged her mentee to aim high and to work steadily towards her goals.

One thing about Merrill that stood out to Hudson, however, was her willingness to share the areas of her life where she wanted to grow.

“When we were discussing our mentoring plan, I asked Jane about work-life balance. Her response was, ‘That's something that I haven't figured out yet, so maybe you can teach me and we can work on it together,’” said Hudson. “That was powerful. It's not often that people are willing to share their weaknesses.”

Merrill’s unique ability to keep her mentee grounded while also spurring her forward is just one of many reasons that she makes a fantastic mentor.

“Jane keeps me grounded, pushes me and makes me think outside the box,” said Hudson.

Stephanie Nye, Columbia

Although Stephanie Nye and her mentee, Cate Cardinale, knew each other for several years prior to the beginning of their mentoring relationship, Nye took her official role as a mentor to the next level. The pair outlined their expectations at the start of the mentorship and decided to meet formally once a month with informal check-ins in between. Nye also made a consistent effort to invite other legal professionals to the monthly meetings in order to expand her mentee’s network.

Nye also stressed the importance of getting involved with the South Carolina Bar. Her goal was for Cardinale to join at least one Bar committee during her first year of practice. This led to valuable professional connections for Nye’s mentee.

“No matter what goals I expressed to Stephanie, she knew someone that could provide me with advice and help me achieve my goals. She also had a personal connection for almost every objective of the mentoring plan,” said Cardinale. “Each of these connections willingly took time out of their busy schedules to meet with me. This was in large part due to their respect for Stephanie.”

One important aspect of their mentoring plan was the importance of life-work balance. Nye discussed the demands of the practice of law with Cardinale and emphasized how important it is to take care of herself both physically and mentally. Nye exposed Cardinale to the Bar’s wellness resources by taking her to a Wellness Committee meeting. In addition, Nye and Cardinale attended a community mediation class to learn meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction. “It is now a regular part of my stress relief routine,” said Cardinale.

Nye is the current director of Externships and Special Programs at the South Carolina School of Law and is a member of the Bar Wellness Committee. She has been practicing for nearly 20 years.

“Stephanie was incredibly supportive and went out of her way to provide insight into how to achieve my goals,” said Cardinale.