Saturday, January 10, 2009

Making the Most of Your Mentor

So you’re lucky enough to have a mentor. Now what? He’s no good to you if he’s a mentor in name only. Consider the following to build a lasting, meaningful relationship with him.

Meet regularly. Make the effort to meet with your mentor on a regular basis. It’s easy for your mentor to get too busy. It’s easy for you to get too busy. Schedule regular meetings to discuss the cases you’re handling and the issues you’re tackling. Consider meeting once a month, or more, for breakfast or lunch to get together and talk.

Communicate regularly. Aside from pursuing face-to-face meetings, call and email your mentor. Email is a great way to get much-needed advice. You can send your question when you find the time and your mentor can answer it when he finds the time.

Network together. Ask your mentor to accompany you to local bar functions where, due to his years of practice, he likely will know several attendees to whom he can introduce you. With your mentor at your side, you never have to go to a bar function again and feel like you don’t know a single person in the room.

Ask your mentor the hard questions. Your mentor is worth his weight in salt because he likely can answer your hard questions. Questions about ethical dilemmas, case strategies and office politics. Ask him. His experiences makes him equipped to answer them.

Seek his wisdom. Your mentor has a lot to teach. Not only about the law and the practice, but about family, about right and wrong and about the choices life presents us. Seek out his perspective and beliefs about the big things. You may learn something more important than how to take a deposition.

Find out his life story. We are a composite of our experiences. Learn your mentor’s experiences - the life he’s lived, the challenges he’s faced and what he’s done to get to where he is. Learning what challenges he faced and how he faced them can give you insight on how to face your own.

"I’m with him." Your mentor can give you access - to corporate and bar functions, to sitting on committees and boards and to meeting the people you want to meet. For example, if you’re looking to get involved in an organization, possibly pursue a leadership position, your mentor can help you get your foot in the door.

Ask for a favor. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a tight spot and you’ll need someone to help you out. Maybe you’re not happy at your job? He may be able to recommend you to a friend who is looking for an associate.

Repay the favor. Just as you have needs, so does your mentor. Repay the favor and help your mentor with his needs. Does he need help with an article he’s writing? With a fundraiser his firm is sponsoring? With a legal issue he’s struggling with? Your mentor will appreciate your help and will be more willing to help you the next time you ask.

Start mentoring others. As a young attorney, you may think you have not amassed enough experiences to mentor someone else. You’re wrong. If you’re a mid- level associate, mentor an entry level associate. If you’re an entry level associate, mentor a law school, college or even high school student who has a whole host of questions.

A mentor is only good if he is, well, a mentor. That takes time and commitment, on his part and on yours. Prod your mentor to do his part and do yours by helping him when he needs a hand. Because in the end, mentorship, like any relationship, is a two-way street.


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Mentees gain invaluable insight beyond their own education and experience. Give yourself the edge with the support and guidance of a mentor.

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Jinan said...

Why assume that the mentor is male? Reeks of sexism which is inherent and rampant in the legal fraternity as it is.