Mentoring is a practice that has always been the preferred method of transferring knowledge since the beginning of times. Before big universities and all the new ways people can access education and training, mentoring was the only way a trade skill could be learned, and there was a reason for that, as there is no better teacher than experience itself.
A mentoring relationship is a bond between two individuals who trust each other and who are being mutually benefited from the companionship, the hard-work, the experience and the knowledge they each bring to the table with the hopes of helping the other one become more successful in their own chose field.
Here in Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we have talked about the benefits of mentorships, the way new technologies are shaping this practice and how many famous individuals have been personally gained a lot from being involved with a mentor and now they recommend it for anyone who is seeking advancement as an individual in their personal and professional life.
Today we want to talk about mentoring in the law profession. We know that mentorships can give those involved a serious advantage no matter which field of professional development they belong to, and this also rings true when it comes to professions in law, although there are certain challenges and situations that are unique to attorneys and the type of environments they work in.
The legacy that has been handed down since the time of the Greek philosophers continues today being experienced by many people in the legal world. It is a reality that from the very beginnings and throughout the career of a young attorney, they are faced with opportunities to engage in mentoring relationships. This happens in universities, during internships and in many law firms to which they may become associated with. This is clear evidence that there is an appreciation for the practice in pretty much all levels of the profession and that lawyers truly understand how this sort of partnerships positively impacts their trade.
Lawyer to lawyer mentoring is a practice that has been adopted by many organizations and rightly so since almost anyone who is in the legal profession will tell you that mentoring is a critical component to an attorney’s success. Mentors are powerful tools that can help new lawyers navigate all the hurdles that are characteristic of the world of law, no matter the place where they exercise their trade. A mentor who is part of the organization where they new lawyer works, can not only help them with their own perspectives, experiences knowledge that differs from their own but also help them settle into the company by showing them how to quickly adapt to the way things are usually done. When a senior member takes another lawyer under their wing, this also gives a level of “sponsorship” to their work that goes along way when it comes to getting out there and getting started in this new world where people truly respect and admire this type of patronage.
It is important to remember that mentoring relationships are not simply a one-sided partnership where senior members of the organization who are usually very busy individuals, should volunteer their time out of the kindness of their heart to help other up-and-comers gain knowledge and eventually replace them. Mentorships also work the other way around in helping the mentors broaden their own network and learn skills that these younger people bring from their own life experiences or that have learned in an academic environment that is much more modern than the ones they experienced years ago when they attended law school.
There is also a case being made for diversity in the workplace and in the law profession in general. Partnering with members of different social groups, race, gender, background and even nationality can great help a more experienced lawyer understand important insights in perspective in a world where diversity is becoming such a valued asset. According to a publication by By Stephanie A. Scharf and Roberta D. Liebenberg at the American Bar Association, women in the profession continue to be greatly underrepresented today, where only about 16% of equity partners in large firms are women. These numbers become even scarcer if we take into account minorities.
While many recommendations have been made about closing the gender gap at different levels all across the profession, it is worth mentioning that mentorship programs could be a great asset to use in order to address this crisis. Successful senior lawyers of both genders could use the opportunity to take interest into the work of younger female lawyers and other members of groups that are underrepresented, and thus make a difference while at the same time gaining invaluable knowledge and perspective of a different set of experiences and outlooks on our world and the way law continues to change and to accommodate diversity.
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