Whether you’re a recent law school graduate or a seasoned attorney, there will be times you need professional guidance. While your legal education and internships helped develop the necessary technical skills, for consistent career advancement and support, it’s important to have a career mentor.
Guidance is Crucial for Legal Career Success
Mentors are more senior lawyers with whom you’ll form a trust-based professional relationship that facilitates your career growth. They’re committed to helping you make all the right moves during each phase of your career. A mentor helps you successfully integrate into a new role and assists you with cultivating a strong professional network.
Working regularly with your mentor also helps you navigate the legal profession in your area, as well as enhance your professionalism, self-confidence, and legal skills.
Teaching Beyond the Classroom
There’s far more to your professional success than being an excellent legal practitioner. There are many practical and professional “insider” strategies you need that law school didn’t teach.
They can show you how to confront the inevitable ethical situations or conduct crisis management to avoid career-derailing mistakes. For example, a mentor can help you answer tricky legal questions that you may not feel comfortable asking your direct supervisor. You also get support dealing with demanding clients or navigating tricky intracompany relationships.
Get Help Reaching Career Goals
You’ve probably based your career plan on honing specific skills and ending up with a specific job title. But the actual steps and moves necessary to achieve your goal may be a bit more ambiguous. The best lawyer-mentors have been where you are and can help you form solid strategies to execute your career plan effectively.
Mentors also become internal champions. They will be your biggest advocate and supporter to senior attorneys in your firm or organization. This backing can get you the best assignments, promotions or invites to industry events.
How to Choose and Work With a Mentor
The ideal mentor is two or three levels above you professionally, and can relate to where you are in your career. Choose an attorney with high ethical standards and has a career trajectory you’d like to emulate.
Outline what you’re looking for in a mentor before beginning your search. Then, cast a wide net within your trusted network of legal professionals.
The National Legal Mentoring Consortium site lists law firms and organizations with formal programs. Bar associations and your undergraduate and law school alumni networks are excellent mentor sources, too.
If you don’t get matched through a mentorship program, you’ll need to cultivate relationships with potential mentors yourself. It takes time to build mentor-mentee relationships, and the best legal mentors are usually busy. So you should identify more than one possible mentor.
You can start to build the relationship by asking your potential mentor if you can help with research or deposition transcript mark-up. Once they start giving advice, show them that you’re grateful for their time and expertise, and are willing to take their counsel. Then, build the relationship from there, expecting it to take time and consistent effort.
Choosing and maintaining the relationship with the right attorney-mentors is a key strategy for getting ahead in your law career so take this step seriously.
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