Why Mentors Are Crucial For Entrepreneurs

As Suzzanne Uhland has previously asserted: it takes a lot to thrive and succeed as an entrepreneur. Startups, and by extension entrepreneurs, are constantly looking for new ways to achieve their goals, thusly breaking all the rules and making a myriad of mistakes in an effort to drive their businesses forward. Thus, and as previously mentioned in this blog, seizing the help of a mentor stands out as something invaluable.

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Launching a startup and becoming a great, inspiring and successful entrepreneur is a journey full of advantages and disadvantages: as aspiring business and company-developers, entrepreneurs always happen to find themselves in situations where the most common feeling is highly related to disorientation and not knowing what to do; however they do understand the importance of always staying in motion pushing towards their goals making decisions irrespective of the possible outcome.

Without someone pointing them in the right direction—or a mentor, so to speak—, entrepreneurs often end up making terrible mistakes, especially during the early stages after launching their businesses. These circumstances suggest that the smaller the business, the faster they need to keep moving regardless of the challenges that lie ahead.

Talking about challenges, it is undeniable that the journey of becoming an entrepreneur is full of them, and that should be taken for granted. Thus, having good mentors and someone to reach out to for advice becomes no less than essential. A good mentor’s words and advice will help entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts to take action within imperfect circumstances—if there is such a thing as perfect circumstances, though—, because they not only provide a different point of view but also can give extra confidence to keep moving forward without doubts and hesitation. In short: they help entrepreneurs execute rapidly on time delicate and sensitive decisions in an attempt to keep moving towards the main goal.

The journey of succeeding as an entrepreneur is also a journey of gathering a myriad of information—thinking pragmatically of the long-term—. Getting all the data needed to keep moving forward in order to make the best decisions is something that, although can be done without reaching out for help, is something best done by seeking a mentor for help and advice before recklessly making those decisions. Bear in mind that mentors are individuals who have likely already been through the exact same, or similar, situation, therefore, their help is invaluable.

As formerly mentioned by LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman, the essence of today’s entrepreneurial journey and the challenges often under its scope can perfectly be described by a simple metaphor: startups, and the decision to become an entrepreneur is like jumping off a cliff and assembling an aircraft on the way down. Thus, entrepreneurs cannot simply assume they have all the tools to assemble the aircraft alone, all by themselves, which is why mentors embody a great source of information and advice.

What makes a good mentor stand out? Well, there are certainly different aspects and characteristics. Here are two of them:

A good mentor possesses high-level expertise

A good mentor is someone who possesses a valuable set of skills and expertise, often in the same skills entrepreneurs lack. This demands a lot of self-awareness from the side of startup enthusiasts, for big names and titles do not always mean an individual will serve a good purpose as a mentor. Industry veterans are not systematically the perfect match, rather, entrepreneurs should set out identify those individuals who underwent really tough situations that demanded actual work and tons of hustle. Do not just pay attention to fancy names, look for the skills that are needed to pursue the dream.

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Mentors often highlight the importance of making a long-term oriented partnership in order to maintain momentum throughout the stages of the process, especially the early stages. There is an undeniable difference in pace between already well-established businesses and smaller companies. This means that smaller businesses need to move faster to ensure they reach a conclusion.

A good mentor is someone who succeeded as an entrepreneur

This is quite obvious, yet often disregarded by today’s entrepreneurs. And although it may sound a bit biased, it is undeniable that there are mentors who have been—or still are—entrepreneurs. Success is something that can be measured in a plethora of different ways, but real mentors have likely walked in the exact same shoes and taken the same steps than today’s entrepreneurs. In order to determine whether a mentor is a good fit, it is quite good to assess whether entrepreneurs see themselves succeeding just like their mentor has. It is much easier just to follow an advice that comes from someone who has made a name for himself by doing something similar—they kind of stand out as the living proof that legitimizes all the efforts that are needed to achieve whatever entrepreneurs want to achieve.

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Mentoring a teleworking team: A new and necessary challenge

The Internet is the cause of many of the social and cultural changes we face today. One of them is the way of working. This information technology has made many people prefer to work from their homes and other remote sites, rather than doing their labors from an office. In fact, several companies no longer have large headquarters, and most of their employees operate from home. In other words, the Internet has made companies more intangible (and perhaps more efficient because of this.) In consequence, the task of directing and mentoring the employees of a company must change. It is one thing to do mentoring in a traditional company (even if the mentor must travel from one city or another country to visit his or her mentees,) and another thing is to do it through Skype.

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So, in this post, I will analyze this situation and give some useful tips for a successful virtual mentoring.

Telework is an evidence that a company is primarily communications; a communications network, more than a group of people operating in a physical facility. This type of organization takes advantage of new technologies so that both parties, workers, and employees, can benefit from them. Telework offers a number of advantages, indeed.  It allows an employee, consultant, or contractor to work remotely from his or her home or another chosen place during a few days or the entire week. It is also an option for those days when an employee must attend to personal matters that will only require a reduced part of the day. However, teleworking may be quite challenging both for mentors and employees, since there is a lack of physical control over the mentoring processes, and some employees usually mix work and personal life, and it complicates their performance.

So, mentoring and managing teleworking employees requires a very concrete approach to what it means to ‘stay in touch.’ It requires a results-oriented management style with good planning performance of all employees.

Read also: What Can Mentoring Do For Me And My Career?, by Suzzanne Uhland

It is necessary to establish clear communication and to take additional steps to build proper trust and evaluation processes. Many corporations employ remote teams, and the manager communicates daily with his or her colleagues, as well as the employees in different parts of the world, not just by phone or email, but thanks to a set of new Internet-based tools, like WhatsApp. However, and mainly due to fears and lack of custom, many executives still find it very difficult to manage remote equipment.

In order to get the most out of your teleworkers team, you need to establish clear and regular communication to build trust and evaluating that the employees are working efficiently. It is important to keep in touch with them, and not only when it comes to business: Use webinars for training them, spend some moments of your day to ask them how it is going with them. Keep thing human.

Now, setting up tasks via email and providing an urgent contact channel is fine. But it may be much better if you use video conferencing software to which everyone has access, like Skype and Hangouts, because it allows you to see faces and to normalize relationships. It is important to keep in touch periodically. How much? Hold such meetings once a week, short and effective communications. Choose a day and an hour that suits most or, if necessary, divide your remote employees by time zones and create work groups. The ideal time may be early Monday to plan everything up from the beginning of the week, or maybe on Friday afternoon to check the evolution of goals and setting new targets for the next seven days of work. The important thing is ‘to bring them together,’ whatever day it may be. We are humans, social beings, we need this. In addition, this helps to impose schedules and thus contributing to the organization and overall responsibility.

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Technology is a great ally for business and opens many doors that would otherwise remain closed. It is basic to increase productivity and strengthen ties. But, again, you are working with people, and it is important to socialize in person. Just checking that everything is going well (or not) is never enough. They should feel an essential part of the company, and it is worth making an effort to meet them personally. It complements the daily emails and the weekly video conferences with face-to-face meetings between the local staff and the workers that operate from other parts of the world. Collect them in the same place. Buy the tickets and cover the expenses. Organize trips to the central office so people can meet in person and chat even once a year. It is their company, after all, so make them feel at home.

It is also important that you keep updated about the new technological developments for improving your communication. Telework mentoring is more than writing and checking emails. Be always curious about what can the new tools do for your business.

Recommended: Mentoring Virtually in a Teleworking Environment

Is there a difference between a mentor and a coach?

It is undeniable that the hype around coaching and mentoring is real: people hear a lot about both things, especially under today’s fast-paced and stressful circumstances. However, as the saying says, plenty of people have managed to go further that they thought they could just because someone else firmly believed they could. Although the terminology, and the words «mentoring» and «coaching», are seemingly—and often used—interchangeable, reality dictates otherwise; however, one thing is certain: both mentors and coaches can get to be highly meaningful and worthwhile resources. But, what is the difference between these two? And, moreover, how can people know which one they really need?

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Suzzanne Uhland has already mentioned valuable things about mentoring and different approaches to finding the right one irrespective of the stage; nonetheless, it is wise to first determine the distinction between mentors and coaches. Normally, or at least how tradition has previously shown, mentors were commonly assigned within a corporate organization to help its employees get acquainted with their roles. Today, and as of the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution and the digital era, mentors have shifted towards a more holistic approach and act as mere advisers regardless of whether they receive any kind of compensation or not.

Today’s most common connotation around mentors is that they embody successful persons who are always willing to share what they have learned and the wisdom they have acquired throughout their lives to provide accurate and useful insights to entrepreneurs and pretty much anyone willing to listen. One key aspect, nonetheless, is that they function differently: they always stay in a reactive-expecting position, helping people once they come across any sort of challenge. Thus, and even though a mentor may not have enough expertise in the mentee’s field, they are quite proficient at navigating the corporate world and the business field.

And that is an overall view of the mentoring end. Coaches, on the other hand, often have enough expertise in a particular field, and most of the times such expertise matches the field of the people they are helping. In general, coaches possess several certifications and strong and solid management skills. In the corporate world, coaches play a vital role in supporting different CEOs or venture capitalists as well as entrepreneurs. Their main function is to help them foresee any possible challenge in the upcoming future and come up with effective ideas on how to proceed and tackle them as they arise. Their nature, all in all, is somewhat proactive: coaches definitely enjoy participating and coming up with ideas that may help their customers and their coachees.

The intricacies of the relationship between a mentor and a mentee are rather open-ended: it can last for decades, whereas regular and traditional coaching happens for one specific reason, and once the issue has been addressed or solved, the relationship normally ends.

Which seems like the wisest choice?

After considering the aforementioned aspects in regard to the different intricacies of both relationships, people should already know which type of relationship suits them best and which would serve a much greater purpose; nonetheless, it is wise to consider the following aspects as well:

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Consider where are you now

Perhaps, one of the greatest factors, if not the most important, is the stage of the journey. An entrepreneurship enthusiast seeking to thrive in her or his business often needs a mentor who can provide guidance as to how to overcome basic challenges and how to tackle the issues that often arise when establishing a business. At this point, a mentor seems to be quite a good choice given the fact that they can provide a much wider spectrum of advice and connections that might come in handy for the business. As businesses grow, they tend to get more uncanny, and issues become more nuanced than in early stages. Once the business has reached this point, working alongside a coach seems a much better idea, especially if the coach also happens to work in the same industry; thus, the coachee will get a much better perspective towards the future.

Name your needs

Irrespective of the stage of the journey, if a particular individual has already identified a specific need, the wisest choice leans towards working alongside a coach. 

For example, if a startup or an already-established company is experiencing corporate development difficulties, which in turn prevent the company from scaling its business, a coach with expertise in such field will certainly be much better; however, if the same individual has not identified and named specific needs, and all she or he needs is proper guidance, a mentor would serve a much better purpose.

 

 

 

 

How To Boost Your Career By Mentoring

Mentoring is a practice that is becoming more commonplace today in companies that are successful and also care about the development and growth of their employees in both personal and professional fields. Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, we have explored the many reasons mentorships benefit the individuals involved in the relationship directly and how the company is indirectly greatly enhanced as well by providing the space, guidance, and motivation to harness mentoring as a tool towards evolution.

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In your own career progression, we are sure you can recall the times when you had to learn about a process or find a way to deal with a situation and realized you were faced with learning opportunities. After that, you became aware when these situations repeated themselves and were able to act accordingly based on your own experiences or if you were lucky enough, according to the teachings you received from a coach or mentor you had. Lastly, there is a time in which you are faced with being able to pass your knowledge down to others.

Teachings are in itself a very rewarding experience, but are there other things that I can expect to receive when investing my time and energy as a mentor? Are there other ways to boost my career by participating as an active member in a mentoring program and lending my time towards helping mentees grow personally and professionally?

Teaching is learning

Teaching is a powerful tool that allows you truly gauge your understanding of how things work. People have a tendency to believe that they understand concepts better than they really do. Through teaching, you actually become aware of your understanding as you try to instruct others on procedures or ideas. When you show someone how to do something, you understand details that you may have overlooked before, and thus you gain a deeper understanding yourself and learn from your own instructions as a result.

Building bridges

Having a great relationship with colleagues and coworkers is something that greatly aids the progression of your career. This type of internal networking allows you to have a closer relationship with the people you share your work with and that way you can ensure that people are collaborating and looking out of each other. Mentoring is an excellent way to strengthen those bonds and to create new ones with incoming personnel that has just arrived at the company or who have started their progression through the ranks.

Seeing your worth

Mentoring helps you evaluate your own career advancement and gain perspective in how much you have accomplished. When you are a mentor, you can see how far you have gotten by sharing this time with people who is just getting started in their own profession. Being able to see how you can contribute to the advancement of others and how influential those contributions become is truly uplifting.

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Leadership development

As a mentor, you have to guide and oversee people from different backgrounds and with diverse sets of skills, something that will truly test the potential of your leadership and management skills. Everything about being a leader from the way you deal with adversity in the manner you communicate with others will be tested when you become a mentor. This type of practice will only make you a much more capable manager.

Learning new skills

Everyone you meet can teach you something new. In a mentor-mentee relationship, that statement rings as true as ever because both individuals are given a great opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from each other in a real-world environment. Do not underestimate how much you can receive from your mentees even when you are the one who is supposed to be mentoring because in most cases both of those terms are interchangeable.

The organization

When you help others become more competitive and advance in their careers, you are at the same time strengthening the organization and giving back to the profession. As a leader, you know that the accomplishment of the mission is just as important as the welfare of the members of the company when you mentor you are helping address both of these factors.

Talent retention

Talented individuals should be retained, and a company must do everything within their power for these people to not just stay in the organization, but to never feel like they have a reason to leave. Mentoring is one of the ways you can contribute to the creation of an environment that makes workers feel appreciated and valued by the company.

Seeing the bigger picture

Mentoring gives you the opportunity to gain perspective from different levels of the organization. Sometimes your own privilege as a senior employee blinds you from seeing the issues that other members must face. This insight is unique and extremely valuable and being in a mentoring relationship allows you to have direct access to that particular stream of information.

 

The Best 3 Approaches To Finding The Right Mentor For You

A good mentoring relationship is something that many successful professionals give credit to when asked about how they got where they are. The benefits of mentorships are clear, measurable and evident to anyone who decides to even examine the matter and talk to those who have personally been involved in one of these great professional partnerships. Great mentors are people who have decided to sacrifice some of their time and effort in order to help someone else excel and attempt to reach their full potential.

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That aspect in itself is already commendable, but it is worth mentioning as we have said numerous times here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, that the proper mentoring relationship is a two-way street in which both parties are rewarded from the interaction in different manners. 

A mentee doesn’t let all the responsibility resting on their mentor’s shoulder, on the contrary, one could argue that mentees should be even more involved in helping guide the discussion and steer the course of the partnership, while at the same time finding ways to give back to their mentor by also sharing their knowledge and providing feedback that is extremely valuable for the mentor to assess their own interpersonal and leadership skills. 

People with the experience will tell you that there are few things as rewarding as seeing that your efforts are paying off when you are helping someone else get ahead in life, but at the same time you feel that the relationship nourishes you and helps you understand how to be better at what you do and how to make the most of everything you have experienced so far.

One of the most challenging parts of mentoring is actually finding the right mentor, or better yet, knowing what to look for in a mentor in order to choose the best person for you and also someone who can benefit just as much as you will during the partnership. In this article, we want to talk about 3 aspects you should broadly consider to make the right decision about your mentoring relationship and where it should lead you.

Thinking about short-term

Where do you want to be a year from now? This is one of the most typical questions people get asked at interviews, but there is a reason for that. Short-term goals are easily attainable benchmarks that can help you measure success in a short amount of time and also be motivated by seeing your own advancement. Having a mentor that is a reflection of where you want to be in the short-term is an excellent way to adjust your sights and start marching in the right direction. This type of mentor is great for helping take on small tasks and projects at your level because their experience is very similar to yours and they understand where you are since they were there not that long ago. These mentors can also help you gain insight on the company and aid you in finding ways to make your transition smoother as you try to get used to the new environment. This relationship can be quite informal, and you can take charge on getting started by discussing it over a cup of coffee as you socialize and get to know other people in the company.  

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Looking further ahead

While the previous mentor can help you think about how to best carry yourself on a daily basis inside the company, this second mentor is a person who can help you project to where you want to be in five years. This person can help with advice on how to advance in your field and within the company and how to accomplish your short-term goals but will your sights further ahead. Mid-level managers are exceptional individuals to look at when trying to find a “five-year-ahead” mentor since they occupy the positions where you may see yourself in the future while you are still part of the company and they already have some experience under their belt to share with you. Engaging into one of these relationships is a bit more formal and should be planned ahead. Treat it as if it were an interview and keep in mind that the person may not want to engage due to time constraints and other possible factors.

A Career Mentor

This advisor is someone who can help you answer the tough questions about where you want to go with your career and the ultimate goals you want to accomplish. A career mentor may work inside the company, or it could also be someone who has been successful in your field and you admire professionally. They take time to find, and you may have more than one through the years, but the one thing they will have in common is that they will become important to what you do and their opinion will matter on the decisions you make. A mentoring relationship is something to be cherished and cared for if you want to make the most out of it.

Some good tips to manage a mentoring relationship

We have already seen many definitions for mentoring and we have seen many types of programs and approaches to mentoring. We don’t have to go again at those definitions. Instead, this time we will focus on the relationship mentee and mentors have and how this relation can be managed.

It is not only about a contract or having some kind of agreement but also about understanding the goals and the objectives that the mentors have for their mentees and what mentees expect from their mentors.

Suzzanne Uhland has compiled some very useful tips that give the readers some pointers on what are the terms that every mentoring relationship should have so mentors, mentees, and companies that use such programs understand and get the most out of their programs.  

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The first meeting

This is comparable to the first impression and the saying “there is only one chance to make a first impression”. Here the mentor and the mentee should meet each other and be very open about all the topics and about their own backgrounds and experiences. The idea with this first encounter is to know each other and to build that much-needed trust that will be the keystone for everything during the mentoring relationship. Some of the topics that are recommended to be discussed by mentor and mentee are the objectives and expectations of the relationship; what will the responsibilities be and what will the time commitments be; a place and schedule for the meetings; how confidential information will be treated and what will the limits be to conversations and topics;  which obstacles could arise and how to deal with them; and the terms to end the relationship.

The objectives and expectations of the relationship

Here the mentee´s goals are of most importance. The mentor should treat this information with a lot of commitment because here is where he or she can understand where the relationship will go. The goals should be specific, attainable and measurable. Going down to reality, the mentees sometimes don’t know where they are going exactly or have goals that are either too crazy or too short. Here the mentor can push the mentee to get out of his or her comfort zone and make the mentee think outside of the box and look for bigger and more ambitious goals. After this, the mentor should take a good look and see if he or she can really help the mentee on reaching such goals. This will prevent one of the most common reasons that mentoring programs fail which is a mismatch of mentor and mentee. Then, if there is a match, the mentor and mentee should discuss how these goals are going to be met.

A topic that mentors should avoid is talking about how expectations could fail or how their personalities could clash in the future of the relationship.  If there is chemistry the relationship should start and make changes as they go because if there is empathy on both sides any problem can be solved and learned from.

The limits

It may sound similar to a couple who negotiates times and hours for their own space, but it is absolutely necessary. The goals and objectives should be set and the boundaries for them should be discussed as well. Mentor and mentee have to be very clear on what limits would the relationship have because often people become too friendly or they use more time for the relationship than it is expected affecting other activities for the mentor or the mentee. Other problem that could arise are the questions on how to handle a difficult member of the board or the company; concerns about the strategic approach that the company has; and personal issues that are not the mentor´s job to handle. In many firms, a different mentor that has nothing to do with the mentee or is not within his group is assigned to the mentee in order to deal with personal issues and to not lose the ability to have a full and open disclosure.  Some of the common limits that firms set for a mentor – mentee relationship are: that the mentor gets involved in issues that require dispute resolution; using the relationship for direct career advancement, and talking about money or having an economic relationship.

Confidentiality and conflicts

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This stage is delicate and should be managed correctly by the mentor. Of course, a lot of information that is confidential will come up in the conversations but there has to be an agreement on which is useful for the relationship and which information is just part of the conversation itself and not part of the program. If the lawyers are from different firms, for example, they should know and understand the Rules of Professional Conduct and abide by them.

Be sure to also read this post about the advantages of mentoring in the law profession.

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The Advantages Of Mentoring In The Law Profession

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.

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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.

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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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