Best Law Firm Mentors 2022: Joseph Centeno

Joseph Centeno, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney

Centeno has made it a priority to give younger attorneys opportunities to grow in their current roles and develop leadership experiences of their own. Examples of this include passing his seat on the Philadelphia Diversity Law Board to a diverse female attorney, sharing speaking opportunities with organizations such as the Association of Corporate Counsel with associates, guiding and supporting attorneys in their promotions, allowing younger attorneys to pitch new business at the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and more.

One of Centeno’s mentees, Charlene Gedeus Barker, has been vocal about how he has helped her thrive in her career. “Joe is constantly thinking of ways to ensure that I have a seat at the decision-making table and more importantly, a voice,” Charlene stated. “He has given me opportunities within the firm to lead litigation, interface with clients and placed me in a position to be promoted to counsel and later shareholder. He has also advocated for me outside the firm, sponsoring my application to the National Employment Law Council’s academy where I get to have direct interaction with in-house attorneys and leading minority labor and employment defense lawyers from across the country. Simply put, I would not be a shareholder today without Joe’s intentional and strategic mentorship,” she added.

As you built your career, who mentored you?

I was fortunate to have many strong mentors throughout different phases of my career. One that stands out is Don H. Liu, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal and Risk Officer for Target. Don exemplifies true leadership and has done remarkable work for the Asian American legal community. I am honored to have learned so much from Don over the years and am appreciative of the opportunity to continue to advance his efforts in supporting young Asian American lawyers through my role as a Board Member and Selection Committee Member of the Don H. Liu Scholars Program . I am also grateful for James Penny and Richard Gourwitz, who were two additional guiding forces that helped me develop throughout my career. The lessons that I learned from these individuals stood the test of time and can be useful to attorneys in any stage of their career—focus on client needs; provide practical solutions; don’t be afraid of taking calculated risks; and be the best lawyer you can be.

What is the value of robust mentorship?

The benefit that mentorship brings to both the mentee and mentor is the opportunity to learn, grow and share.

Keeping in mind today’s rapidly changing profession, what’s one piece of advice you would give to a young lawyer?

You must first decide what you want in life and in the practice of law. Then formulate your strategy, prioritize your goals, reassess when necessary, and execute.

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