“You need to find yourself a mentor,” is a phrase you as an attorney have heard at some point in your law career, and likely many times over. It’s something that’s often taught as an informal part of your law school curriculum, and repeated throughout a young lawyer’s budding career.
Yet, unless you’re surrounded by other attorneys who care about your professional trajectory, or you’re actively seeking advice on building your career as a legal practitioner, once you become a veteran of the legal industry the conversation typically comes to a halt.
The truth is, however, that mentors are a valuable commodity at any stage of your legal career. Whether you’re new to the profession or a senior attorney with two decades under your belt, having others who are intimately involved in the same vocation, and willing to offer insights, is instrumental to staying in love with being a lawyer and growing as a professional.
That being said, here are three ways to find a mentor, regardless of what stage of your law career you are currently in.
1. For the New Solicitor
Many lawyers who start out in the legal profession look inside the ranks of their own organization for mentorship. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but you can sometimes run into difficulties when exposing the skills and areas you lack expertise in to a senior member of the law firm. The benefits, however, can be significant, as you’ll have a mentoring attorney who’s deeply invested in, and interested in, your success, which ultimately contributes to the success of the entire firm.
If you’d prefer to have a mentor outside of the workplace, many bar associations across the United States offer programs for those who are new to law. Beyond this, you can also locate groups of attorneys through LinkedIn and local meetups that are typically governed by senior lawyers whose sole intention is to provide assistance to fledgling attorneys that are eager and ready to learn.
2. For the Mid-Level Lawyer
Being an established attorney doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be seeking guidance on where your career should eventually lead or how to be a more complete legal practitioner. Today, many progressive law firms are making it a point to develop mentoring programs for every one of their employees, including those who have been with the company for some time. If it’s not already instituted in your firm, you may just have the tenure, as well as the influence, to see such a program take shape – or even develop it yourself to your own, and others’, benefit.
Another option for you as a mid-level attorney is speaking to another legal advocate who you admire in the profession. By now you’ve developed a number of relationships with other lawyers, so even if it’s a lateral move in terms of skills and career duration, you can exchange the role of playing mentor between you and another respected colleague to build on, and cheer for, separate and mutual successes.
3. For the Senior Attorney
As a senior member of a law firm, or even if you’re a long-time solo practitioner, finding a mentor takes on a whole new meaning and different sort of approach. At this point in your career there’s a good chance you’re not searching for a way to become a better lawyer – your experience and increased skillset are probably well-established at this point – but you could very likely be looking for someone who can reignite your passion for law, or offer a new perspective on the legal profession.
By serving as a mentor, you’re setting yourself up for the prospect of learning something about yourself as a teacher and advisor, as well as reminding yourself of where you once were as a young attorney, which in itself has rewards. Hence, don’t be afraid to reach out to junior members of your law firm’s team, or look for opportunities to connect with colleagues or advocates through your extensive network of contacts. It just might change the way you see yourself as a professional.
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