Law Mentoring: the help future lawyers need

It is no secret that mentoring relationships have proven to be beneficial and desired both for mentors and mentees. This mentoring legacy for guiding others is permeating increasingly the legal world.  Therefore, mentoring programs are being implemented as a means to provide a space where experienced lawyers impart their wisdom to the next generation. This can take place in law schools or can be provided by a law firm to junior attorneys.

Kozyak Minority Mentoring Foundation 7th Annual Picnic - 220
Image courtesy of Florida Coastal School of Law at Flickr.com

What would mentoring a law student look like?

A way to teach law from experience is to pair students with a mentor. Far from being true, some students think that mentoring means just sitting with a “guy” once every month, and being asked by this person questions like how school is going, or receiving suggestions to take certain classes with a certain professor. However, a mentor can give so much more than a mentee could ever expect or imagine.

In this kind of mentoring…

  • Mentors share their knowledge, expertise and wisdom, and students surely will have a person to turn to whenever they have a question about curriculum, about the legal community in general, or share their concerns.  Mentors listen to those concerns, identify problems, model an appropriate conduct, confront wrong attitudes and practices, challenge perspectives and help consolidate learning.

  • Students participate with attorneys to engage in conversations about what it means to be a lawyer.   These conversations encourage students to think about the meaning of their chosen professional path and help attorneys reflect on their career and what it means for them to be an attorney as well.  The results of this sort of reflections are very positive.

  • Mentees benefit from sharing with someone who has walked the same steps they are in.   Also, they appreciate having a person that has already taken those steps or made the same mistakes.  Mentors are able to look back on their experiences and advise their mentees on the best approaches to be taken in order to confront certain situations.  That is invaluable experience.

  • Mentees are greatly edified when they have a partnership with someone that has legal experience to complement what they are learning inside the classroom.  Undoubtedly, any law student can benefit from spending time with experienced lawyers.  The fact that they have practiced law for a while means that they know the obstacles; they know the wide places and the narrow places in the road.   They know what works or is likely to yield positive results and what does not.

  • Mentoring a law student will produce better future lawyers just because they will be prepared when they get out of law school in the sense that they will have some degree of experience under their belt.  

 

Mentoring Day_law mentor_suzzanne uhland
Image courtesy of Brian Ujiie at Flickr.com

What would mentoring a junior attorney look like?

New lawyers should understand the value of a mentor in the professional life.  To practice law effectively, a junior attorney must be humble enough to understand that mentoring is still beneficial to him, and that seeking guidance is paramount for his success and professional growth.

In this kind of mentoring…

  • Mentors can be immensely valuable for junior attorneys.  They can provide advice concerning substantive and procedural legal matters, mechanisms, and help their mentees with their social and professional development.

  • Law firms understand that through mentoring they can provide more skills, knowledge and experience necessary to produce legal work of great quality.

  • Although a new attorney has all the theory, the right attitude, dedication and an excellent performance at law school, the input from an experienced attorney will provide guidance about how to deal practically with difficult clients, how to manage cases and files, how to handle complex situations, etc. In sum, how to survive the first years of legal practice.  This is not exactly displayed in a law book.  It comes through years of experience that the mentor will make available for the mentee.

  • A good mentor to a junior attorney will take a look at his mentee’s career development and encourage him to always take it seriously. He will teach his mentee how to conduct himself in a civil manner, foster respect and foresee potential consequences of bad choices.  His guidance will be more than assigned supervision; it will be a true commitment to the mentee’s welfare, especially in those first years of practice when the junior attorney is most vulnerable, inexperienced and influenceable.

Whether you are a law student or a junior attorney, you must understand that mentoring relationships are seasonal and recurrent.  One day you are a mentee and you receive greatly appreciated guidance and support. You are challenged, corrected, inspired. Very likely, the professional you will become, will have great expertise and skill to be able to help somebody else through mentoring.  Becoming a mentor should be a desired and a rewarding experience.     

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