Think About Mentoring as Investing in Your Firm

Kathy Fortin

May 28, 2021

Think About Mentoring as Investing in Your Firm

 In a recent conversation with a senior lawyer about his legal career, my ears perked up when he used the word “mentor” in describing the most important lessons in his professional life. He had not one individual, but several, who had taken an interest in him, his talent, and his career path. Now, decades later, he attributes his success and deep satisfaction he has with his career to these people who helped him along the way.

So, what did these individuals do to earn such grateful, long-lasting recognition? From this conversation and others I have had with lawyers, here are some of the valuable roles that mentors have played in the professional development of their younger colleagues.

        1. They are individuals with interest in supporting the development of the next generation of lawyers.

        2. Mentors offer their trust and caring, both in professional and personal areas.

        3. They teach and provide advice in a supportive way.

        4. While efforts at formal mentor-mentee relationships still happen in some large firms, the most valuable mentors do not result from a formal arrangement, Instead, the relationship grows from chemistry and develops organically among lawyers who get to know and like each other by working together.

        5. The best mentors take an interest in their young colleagues without any agenda, teach them the ropes, and do what they can to advance the lawyer’s skills and foster their progress.

 

Do mentors still have a role in the careers of today's lawyers?  Absolutely. While law firms have undergone many changes over the years, new lawyers still require support and guidance in the practice of law. However, the current pressures on law firms means more emphasis is put other matters: marketing, bringing in their own clients, and billing substantial time to meet revenue needs. These demands mean senior lawyers have less opportunity to devote to grooming the next generation. As a result, new lawyers suffer a big loss, one in which there is no one who takes an interest in their progress, advancement, and success. The loss is also the firm’s loss. By not providing guidance, the next generation may not find their work life satisfying and choose to seek a different opportunity.

There have been many changes during this post-pandemic period. We have changed and so has our view of work. Recent articles about the workplace describe a “quitting” craze (among many industries). While lack of guidance is not specifically cited as a reason for employees leaving their jobs, it is clear that workers want to enjoy what they do and are taking a fresh look at their work and how much they feel valued. Doesn’t it make sense to show a young lawyer he or she is highly valued by providing them with this essential form of support? Think about how you can invest in bringing along your new lawyers and what a differnce it could mean to your firm.