The Lawyers' Path to Partnership: Mentoring

Posted on 15/2/2022 by Edward Sorrell

Why mentoring is so important 

If you want to get ahead on the path to partnership, your aim should not just be to become the most knowledgeable, but you should aim to be the best all-round lawyer. Who better to learn from than the people who have already done it? A mentor can become such a useful asset to your legal career as they can help with a wide range of aspects and give you a whole host of tips based on their own experience within the profession.  A mentor can act as an opportunity creator, career advisor, study coach, networking guide or just a wise person to ask for advice; mentors can provide it all.  

Judging by the current desires of the legal job market many lawyers are looking to work more from home. This reduces that chance for you to absorb information while working physically alongside senior colleagues and is why, in a post-COVID world, getting a mentor has become increasingly important. 

So how do you find a mentor? 

First, you need to ask yourself a few crucial questions so you know exactly who you want, and when the time comes, you can explain to the mentor what you’re looking for and why their help would be so valuable to you. They’ll then be much more likely to want to give up their time for you. Remember, mentoring is a two-way street and one day on your path to partnership you too will become a mentor, so be the person you would want to mentor. 

  1. What are your needs? You want to make sure you find the right mentor, a mentor that is aligned with your development goals, someone who is further along on your career path and who will be able to guide you along that path. If you’re a residential conveyancer, there’s no use asking a Professional indemnity partner to be your mentor.  You’re on very different paths and whilst the partner may offer some sound advice, ultimately, they won’t be able to be the right mentor for you. 
  2. Create the opportunity – you shouldn’t be cold calling and asking people out of nowhere, getting a mentor is about creating and strengthening relationships. If you have no one in your current circle, get out there and network. 
  3. Don’t rush. Remember you want your future mentor to take time out of their already busy schedule to help you, so you have to make sure you ask in the right way. Don’t go gung-ho and ask for bi-weekly 1-hour meetups for a year where they can critique your work and connect you with all their contacts. Start slow and ask for a coffee, treat this as an opportunity to ask for advice on a smaller, specific topic, build the relationship and let it blossom into mentorship. It’s also a chance for you to gauge if that mentor is the one for you. Remember even if they are offering a favour, it has to be right for you. 
  4. Follow up - Now at this point, you’ve had your meet up, and it’s either gone exactly how you wanted or you’ve found that the mentorship isn’t what you want, but at least now you know what you do want. Regardless of how it went, make sure to follow up. Always thank the other person for their time and for giving you the opportunity to talk with them despite their busy schedule.  

Then if it went well, pop the question, ask if you can continue to talk, if you can learn more from them and ask for more advice. This will cement the relationship or at least tell you where you stand. If it doesn’t work out you will have learnt so much about the process and you can try again but this time with your newfound experience. 

Commit

Well done, you’ve got this far you’ve secured the mentorship, now make sure you get the most out of it. There’s no point working hard to find a mentor and never getting back in touch, now you keep going, keep learning, build that relationship. You wanted this for all the reasons mentioned above. Now you have it, don’t let it slip! 

This process is not an easy one, it can be uncomfortable and you may find down the line that your mentor isn’t ultimately the right one for you. However, there are so many reasons to get a mentor and so many success stories of successful lawyers having mentors (you only have to watch Suits to see it!) It’s important to remember growth does not happen without discomfort and the partnership does not happen without growth. 

The Lawyers' Path to Partnership: Mentoring

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