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Many attorneys believe in the power of giving back.  While many firms routinely do pro bono work, there are those lawyers who like to get a bit more personal in their efforts and mentoring is often the solution.

What is Mentoring?

A mentor is one who is experienced and knowledgeable in his chosen field of law and chooses to extend that experience to those who are just beginning their legal careers in an effort to help them make the transition.  It’s usually informal and the mentor makes himself available for questions or advice in the less experienced lawyer’s daily responsibilities.  He might serve as a sounding board, an advisor and a means to building networking skills.  A Harrison Barnes offers career advice for both the seasoned lawyer and newly graduated and licensed lawyer.  He says mentoring is on the rise.  Nearly half of all American lawyers had mentors early in their law careers, up from 29% of those who are aged fifty or older who say they had early mentors when they started out.

Laying the Foundation

For those looking for a mentor, A Harrison Barnes says the direct approach is best.  Invite the co-worker to lunch and explain that you’re looking for someone who can provide constructive criticism and advice as you begin your legal career.  Most of the time, you’ll receive a very favorable response.  Most are flattered and sincerely want to help.   Explain too that you know their schedules are busy and that you don’t want to be a distraction, but that you’d appreciate any time they are able to extend.

Once you’ve begun establishing the relationship, it’s important to remember any constructive criticism should not be viewed as insultive; after all, this is part of what you asked for.   In many ways, the resume reviews provided on do the same thing; they provide feedback on areas you can improve in your resume so that it’s a consistent and through documentation of your past experience and educational background.  Of course, the team stands ready to build your resume from a blank slate, too.

If you’ve decided to mentor a newly hired lawyer, again, you might wish to take the invitation to lunch approach.  Explain to the new employee that you’re available to listen, provide advice or anything else you can as they begin their new law career.  We all remember that first difficult year.  We go into it convinced we’re going to change the world only to realize it’s not going to be an easy task.  Only through the wisdom of experience do we realize it’s going to take far more than our vision to change the world.

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a mentor or are considering becoming a mentor, it’s a win win for both parties and can provide a foundation for a lifelong professional and personal friendship.  Although it requires an effort from both parties, it can be highly rewarding.  The mentor gains leadership skills while the new kid on the block gets the benefit of your experience and wisdom.

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