The following is a guest blog post by Anabella Q. Bonfa. Ms. Bonfa is a litigator with Wellman & Warren LLP and has built a reputation for handling business and partnership disputes, theft of trade secrets, and unfair competition. She lectures extensively on trade secrets, networking, and using social media to develop business.
Are you one of those lawyers who roll their eyes whenever anyone suggests mentoring a new lawyer at your firm? If so, it’s time to rethink your position. You may find that mentoring is not only an economic advantage for your firm, but enjoyable for you.
First, why should you consider mentoring a new lawyer? There are many altruistic reasons, but here are a few selfish ones:
- With a little mentoring, new attorneys can develop rainmaking skills and become an important source of new business for your firm. Recent generations tend to have a more entrepreneurial spirit than the baby boomers.
- Investing time into new attorneys breeds loyalty. There’s nothing more flattering to a new attorney than having a senior attorney invest time in him or her. Despite the reputation millennials have for short job tenure, they crave guidance and mentorship, and may stay longer if they get it.
- New attorneys need to learn that good client care involves more than billable hours; it involves hand holding and fact-extracting skills as well as the ability to earn client trust. Unfortunately, these skills aren’t taught in law school; the more your new attorneys hone these skills, the better for your firm.
Once you decide to dive into mentoring, here are a five tips to make it as successful as possible:
- Let your mentee know your law firm’s expectations. If your firm has traditional baby boomer expectations and work ethics, share these with your mentee. For example, that he or she is expected to be the first in the office and the last to leave, to take a back seat in client meetings led by a senior attorney, or to take notes during client meetings. Providing the firm’s “unwritten expectations” helps new attorneys make a stronger start.
- Mentoring doesn’t have to be onerous. Many attorneys don’t mentor because they fear that they’ll be on call 24/7. As a mentor, you set the rules; whether you decide to meet with your mentee weekly, monthly, or quarterly is up to you.
- Encourage your mentee to ask for input. New lawyers are often afraid to ask for feedback, but a good lawyer pleases his or her supervisor by showing care about the work product and being open to improvement.
- Be good listener and sounding board. You may find, as many legal mentors do, that mentees ask less about legal issues than about general advice on client and law firm politics and other basic legal career issues. There’s often no right or wrong answer; just having you there to listen is an important resource for your mentee.
- Share experiences from your legal career. After practicing for years, you’ve probably handled many of the problems your mentee faces. Your mentee will value your advice and be glad to know that you successfully navigated the law practice minefield. How much you choose to share is up to you, but you’ll find that the mentor/mentee relationship is like any other: The more trust you develop, the stronger your bond will be.
One day your mentee will be an experienced attorney who will appreciate that you gave your time and insight when it was needed most. And then he or she can pay it forward to the next generation of attorneys.
For more mentoring tips, check out CEB’s free program Building a Successful Mentoring Relationship, available On Demand.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- 6 Ways to Multitask More Effectively
- The Big Switch: Answers to Questions about Changing Practice Areas
- Stressed Out? Find Support in a Professional Group
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