1. Look Within Your Own Firm
If you have already established a relationship with partners or senior associates, ask if they would be willing to take you under their wings. If you have not established such a relationship, make a list of attorneys at your firm, inside or outside your practice area, whom you admire and from whom you would like to learn. Reach out to each of them. Ask to go for coffee or lunch together to learn more about their career paths. Express interest in learning from them and working with them. Seek their advice. This may or may not lead to a mentor-mentee relationship on the first try. Continue down your list and see what happens. At a minimum, you have built rapport with these attorneys that will likely work in your favor down the road.
2. Search Your Network
Remember all those contacts you made during law school? The people a couple of class years ahead of you? The alumni? The adjunct professors? It is possible that any of them may be your next mentor. Reach out to judges, attorneys, and professors you worked with or met at networking events during law school or early in your legal career. For contacts that are not local, you can stay in touch via phone, e-mail, or social media. If your contracts are local, set a time to meet for coffee or lunch to catch up. In either case, discuss with them the different types of matters you have been assigned at work and your career goals. Ask questions to learn more about their career paths and seek their advice on issues with which you are struggling or concerned. For professors in particular, ask about scholarly publications they are working on. Offer to assist in research or co-author an article.
Also, consider expanding your network by reaching out to an attorney or judge that you have not met but whom you admire and would like to learn more about. Whether they are local or on the other side of the country, introduce yourself. Express interest in learning from them. Seek their advice. Whether a mentor-mentee relationship forms or not, you will have made a connection and hopefully gained some valuable insight. Just as when you submitted applications for clerkships or jobs in law school, don’t be afraid of possible rejection.
3. Use Bar Associations
Many local and national bar associations have formal mentorship programs. These programs are a benefit of membership, and you should use them. Mentorship programs are often found in the young lawyer’s division or in sections related to your substantive practice area. Many times, these programs will try to match you with a seasoned attorney based on something you have in common, such as practice area or alma mater, to facilitate establishing a connection. Introduce yourself after being paired with a mentor. Learn about your mentor’s career path. If the program requires you to complete specific tasks with your mentor, make sure they are completed. Bar associations also provide a forum for cultivating informal memberships. Not infrequently, bar associations (both local and national) enthusiastically embrace participation by younger members, and such participation provides an easy introduction to people who care about the profession and may be willing to provide career lessons and insights to younger attorneys. Most importantly, whether a formal mentorship or a relationship more organically formed, be proactive and stay in touch with your mentor.
There will be times when the reality of being a lawyer does not quite meet your expectations. As a young attorney, however, you must take the reins when it comes to your professional growth. If you need a mentor, seek one out. Try the methods discussed above. If they do not work, try something else. Keep in mind that each connection you make or reestablish is valuable. Even if you do not find a mentor in the traditional sense, you may receive great advice that will shape your career for the better.