At some point, probably still early in your career, you will be looked at to mentor another. It will come as a surprise the first time. You couldn’t possibly have enough experience or wisdom to shape a new lawyer, fresh out of law school. While a generation used to be thought of as at least a decade apart, technology and advances in education make graduates who are four years apart seem like aliens to one another.
Every graduating class seems to have skills and knowledge that are unfamiliar to many who have been in the professional field for decades. However, professionals today still have experience on their side. Experience, networks, contacts, and wisdom: that is what today’s mentor has to offer. The bottom line is that mentorship creates stronger workforce bonds and a personal satisfaction in influencing the success of another person.
How do you mentor Next Gen Lawyers? Go organic – be a human being.
See Your Mentee as a Person, and Not Just an Employee
If you are asked to take part in a formal mentoring program or just personally sought out by a junior associate, first make a formal assessment of yourself. Make certain you are willing and able to make a commitment to the growth and advancement of the person, and not just the company. Take the time to learn about and support their personal life, and not just their professional life. If you are not the one supporting them personally, advise them and ensure that they seek additional mentors for their own well being.
While mentorship programs have helped to strengthen and lengthen tenures at most corporations, it is primarily due to the inspiration and loyalty created by the mentor-mentee relationship. Trust and support create an environment where people desire to stay. Every mentorship should be treated as if one was grooming their replacement.
Make the Commitment
If you have been sought out as a mentor in your firm or field, you are obviously regarded as an expert in your field. While this might come as a surprise to you, others have been watching your successes and experiences. Making a commitment to mentor is a great responsibility, and how will you ever fit this into your schedule?
Remember how you scheduled yourself in and around your mentor’s schedule? You must do the same for your mentee. Pay it forward and commit to mentor. Let your protégé know that he or she must keep your availability and schedule in mind and be straightforward with confidentiality agreements you cannot share, even in a learning situation. During extraordinarily busy moments, invite your mentee to shadow you.
Make Time…Create Time…Give Time
Every hour should be billable, and you are under great stress to make it so. Still, if you are committed to growing as a human being by contributing to another’s growth and success, you must make the time to actually contribute.
Don’t just wait for your mentees to approach you. Once you have made the commitment, seek them out to assure them that you are available to them. If you are extremely busy, share your schedule. Invite them to lunch or coffee or to assist you in research. Many would jump at the opportunity to assist with your work.
Share Skills, Knowledge and Expertise
Create an active give and take relationship. Be an expert active listener, and give constructive and developmental feedback. No matter what their age or career level, everyone wants to be heard and treated with respect. Be open, honest, and transparent. Share your biggest failures and how they were handled. This not only provides a level playing ground, but it gives the mentee the confidence to trust themselves and you.
Acknowledge Your Learning Curve and Invite Them to Join
You don’t have to know everything. You don’t have to have every answer. Being credible doesn’t mean you have all the answers. A great deal of respect comes from admitting where you fall short and where you need to learn, and even inviting your mentees to learn with you.
If there is a professional workshop or course you are interested in taking, invite your mentee to learn with you. Finding a place where both the mentor and mentee can stand on equal ground will almost always strengthen the relationship and build trust.
Push Your Mentees to take Risks and Stand By Them
Everyone knows that those who are timid do not advance. Help your mentee to navigate the politics of the office and the courtroom, as well as to avoid the pitfalls. Take the time to discover their challenges and to support them to aim higher. Be their advocates when they are not there. There is something tremendously fulfilling in the experience of watching your mentees reach their full potential.
Allow Yourself to Be Inspired
New lawyers are the first to hear of a new precedents or developments in the law because they are still fully in the learning mode. Additionally, younger employees often have knowledge of new technologies, social media, and other information sources at. Be open, and never cease learning. The bottom line is that mentoring is mutually beneficial. Take advantage.