Paul Cannon, a lawyer and shareholder at Simmons & Fletcher, Christian trial lawyers, was awarded Outstanding Mentor by the Houston Young Lawyers Association. The award is granted to one attorney who has consistently demonstrated a commitment to mentoring young lawyers in his or her legal community.
To qualify for the award, the lawyer must meet certain criteria, including serving as a role model to young lawyers in the community, fostering the development of young lawyers, and significantly contributing to the profession and/or the community.
Karen Sears, whose story illustrates just how powerful Paul’s mentorship skills are, nominated Paul for the prestigious award. “He has taught me so much and helped me improve in all areas of my life. He takes the time to genuinely listen to my issue at hand and help by giving me guidance. One of the most important things he taught me can’t be found at a college or in a textbook: it is the importance of giving back. I am so grateful that he taught me this lesson and I am grateful he is willing to give his time and talent to me. Without Paul, my life could have turned out completely differently.”
Karen’s work with Paul began before she started college with dreams of becoming a lawyer. She sent out letters to lawyers asking for help and guidance. Paul said, “When I got an almost identical letter 6 months later, I thought, God is trying to tell me something and if I don’t listen after attempt 2, his third message is going to hurt!” Paul began advising Karen on how to increase sales on her website, which is focused on ways to raise money for college. “After she had overwhelming success, I became her advisor. I taught her how to market herself in new ways and how to get sponsorships. I also taught her to seek out and apply for scholarships through private companies. Next thing you know, I was helping her learn how to balance work and school and how to study and improve her writing. Then January 1, she agreed to come to work for me as a marketing assistant.”
Karen was determined to give back in some way for all that Paul had done for her, but she managed to keep her plans a secret. Paul said, “Unbeknownst to me, Karen sought out places that gave mentorship awards and enlisted people who knew me to submit letters and documentation. That is how I got the Mentorship award. She blindsided me completely!”
Paul has been with Simmons & Fletcher for 25 years, and during that time, he has mentored multiple young attorneys. He feels called, as a Christian lawyer, to help provide direction, support, and guidance to those just starting out in the field. He gives advice on everything from the business of law to how to deal with difficult clients and how to litigate cases. He has also mentored employees who needed direction in their careers. As he explained, “It has always been my philosophy that you should push your employees to be successful. If you succeed, there will come a time when they need to leave you to grow and find their own paths. You should wish them well and do all you can to help them. In that respect, I have always tried to help any employee, regardless of their reason for leaving, find their next job.
“I have also mentored the attorneys in our office that have come up behind me. I teach continuing legal education courses to other lawyers on personal injury law topics. I write and publish on topics such as avoiding ethics issues when advertising and how to generate new business. I also have, from time to time, been a guest speaker at schools to talk about what it takes to become a lawyer and similar subjects. Most recently, at the end of 2019 I spent an entire day at Memorial High School talking to several English classes about the importance of reading comprehension when you get out into a legal career,” Paul added.
Paul receives his award this month and is honored and humbled by the recognition. Those he mentored will undoubtedly agree that they are the ones who are truly honored and humbled by Paul’s willingness to unselfishly guide them toward success.