Someone once said that mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction. If there’s one thing we could all use as we continue to fight our way out of the recent global recessions, it’s that.
And while mentoring can certainly help us in our careers, it’s important to know that we could be helpful to others in the same way. We need each other to be mentors as much as we need to be mentored, which leads me to another truth about mentoring worth mentioning. It has effects beyond what the mentor might be registering while he or she is mentoring. Mentorship itself could be the catalyst for reconnecting later on in life -- sometimes when you least expect it.
Years ago, when Joseph Zumpano was in law school, he eagerly applied for clerkships at several top law firms in Miami. His first opportunity was provided by Gary Matzner, who at the time was considered by many in the industry as the Father of Health Law. Zumpano would have been satisfied learning about this specialty from the man himself but because Matzner’s mentorship approach, he learned a great deal more.
Zumpano recalls two lessons in particular. The first lesson came when he realized that, despite Matzner’s success, he was an excellent listener and he always valued everyone else’s point of view, even that of a young law clerk. The second lesson was that Matzner always stressed the importance of being fair in your decisions. Both of these lessons created a lasting impression on Zumpano which would serve him well in the years to come.
A second clerkship paired Zumpano with Arnold Shevin who would later go on to give Zumpano his first job as a lawyer. Shevin and his brother, Robert, steered a successful law practice at the time which was highly respected for their willingness to take on difficult cases, and for their success when representing these cases. During his time at the firm, Zumpano remembers working on two cases in particular that were extremely stressful. Despite the stress, however, Arnold Shevin, taught Zumpano a valuable lesson about the importance of patience, perseverance and discipline to get the job done regardless of what he was facing on the other side. Since those early years, Zumpano has gone on to achieve phenomenal success, and his law firm, Zumpano Patricio and Winker, is recognized globally for its successful representation of what other firms might consider “hopeless cases.” Two cases in particular stand out.
Zumpano and his team of lawyers are one of the few U.S. based law firms to recover a considerable amount of money for a client from a Bahamian trust. The case took nine years. Breaking a trust in the Bahamas was something no one thought could be done. In fact, everyone told him it was impossible. Yet thanks to the perseverance and patience Zumpano learned from his mentor, he and his partners won the landmark case and made history in the process.
Perhaps the most difficult, and most visible case Zumpano Patricios and Winker, PA has taken on is the law suit they filed on behalf of their client, Janet Ray Weininger, against Fidel and Raul Castro, the Cuban Army and the Republic of Cuba over an atrocity committed during the Bay of Pigs invasion. According to Zumpano, “the Cuba case was a combination of perseverance and humility. Listening to what others had to say, we coupled creativity with humility and perseverance and that was the combination which led to extraordinary results.” Those results included an $87 million judgment against the Castro government of which $24 million was quickly collected from the Castro’s frozen assets here in the U.S.
Turning his sights on HMOs and health insurers, Zumpano has recently architected and argued a series of cases on behalf of hospital systems and healthcare providers. The results obtained by Zumpano, partner Leon Patricios, and their team of healthcare attorneys have exceeded $100 million on behalf of healthcare providers.
The benefits of mentoring. It’s obvious that mentoring works and the impact a mentor can have on the success of a protégé and the lives of others is truly immeasurable. But what about that other truth about mentoring I mentioned at the beginning of the column? That it can be a catalyst for reconnecting later on in life? Zumpano kept in touch with his two mentors over the years and always felt an unspoken permanency in their relationship which he knew would one day lead to great things. What it led to was a reunion which has come full circle as both Gary Matzner and Arnold Shevin have joined Zumpano at ZP&W making the already successful law firm even stronger.
Manny García-Tuñón, executive vice president of Lemartec, an international design-build firm headquartered in Miami, can be reached at email@example.com.