Let’s start with an exercise. Think about the three most important lessons you’ve learned in life. Who taught them to you?
The three most important lessons I’ve learned were taught to me when I was a young attorney by one of the partners at my firm, by a colleague, and by my grandfather.
This partner at my firm, we’ll call him Marc, once returned to me a memo covered in red ink: he had edited my entire brief. As a young lawyer, my drafts were wordy and my paragraphs were long. I learned that whether drafting contracts or writing briefs, there is no substitute for concise and persuasive writing. Marc worked with me to become a coldblooded editor.
My colleague, we’ll call him Sam, taught me the importance of building relationships. Sam taught me to plant seeds in communicating with others and to adapt to new ways of reaching clients. This advice was especially helpful as technology changed. Over the years I’ve reached out to my contacts through phone calls, emails, and blogs on a consistent basis to check in with them.
My grandfather taught me a different lesson, but an equally (if not more) important one. My grandfather was a blue-collared guy who never brought home much money but lived a happy life. He brought me to his favorite tavern one evening, bought me a shot and a beer, and told me that despite how proud he was of me that I had become a lawyer, he was worried that I was working too hard and not seeing my kids enough. He urged me to rethink my work-life balance. Seeing my kids today as adults and looking back at the memories I’ve shared with them, I appreciate my grandfather’s mentoring words.
Being open to receiving advice and learning from those around you is key to a person’s growth in their personal and professional lives. It is incredibly important to seek out and build mentoring relationships early in your career.
How do I find a mentor?
Make it your goal to find two mentors; one mentor should be in your firm and another who practices elsewhere. There is no downside to asking someone to be your mentor. If they are too busy, ask someone else! There are so many lawyers out there that have the potential to be your mentor. Attorneys are flattered to be asked for advice and guidance, so don’t be shy!
Who should I ask to be my mentor?
Who do you admire at your firm? Your firm mentor should be someone who provides the most help in answering your questions. They should be able to provide advice about legal issues you are facing as well as understand the particular office dynamics to help you successfully navigate through them.
How much experience should a potential mentor have?
Make sure your mentors have been practicing at least five years. They need to have experience in your practice areas and ideally should have been through some ups and downs in their own career. You don’t want to have a mentor who is still learning the same things you need to learn as a new lawyer. Pick people who can help you think strategically about your career.
What qualities should I look for in a potential mentor?
Find mentors who are trustworthy. At times, you will need to discuss sensitive issues, whether personal or about your practice. Avoid people who gossip or speak badly of others. These kinds of people might not keep your confidences.
In addition to the mentors you find among your professional connections, I am also happy to provide any professional advice and guidance you may need to boost your career. Feel free to give me a call at BLANK and check out my Legal Ally Rainmaker program to learn more ways to boost your career development and put yourself on the right track to achieve your goals.
To learn more about ways to find mentors, please check out my Legal Ally Rainmaker program.