“Congratulations, and welcome to the Bar!” After graduating law school, passing the bar exam, and landing a job, a young lawyer may think that he can conquer anything on his own, right? It may be possible, but with some guidance along the way, it is much more likely. Below are some tips for new lawyers on how to foster fruitful mentor-mentee relationships by being someone who listens, is open-minded, and welcomes feedback.
Be a Good Listener
The first words my mentor uttered to me were from an old quote from Epictetus, who said, “We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” This mantra was key in establishing a beneficial mentoring relationship, and quite frankly, it has been a life lesson for me. A good mentee can maximize the benefits of this relationship just by being a good listener.
As new lawyers, and many of us also as Millennials, we pride ourselves on being independent. While this is a great trait, we must also be willing to place ourselves in a position to listen to our mentors so that we can learn how to be more effective lawyers. This sounds quite simple but, in fact, it is sometimes the hardest thing to do. A mentee should be a sponge eager to soak up knowledge from a mentor’s war stories and advice. From courtroom best practices to landing a client, a mentor serves as a guiding light to help a mentee master her craft. Mentors will help you build an impeccable brand so listen up.
Effective listening is only one part of the equation; mentees should also be receptive to ideas that may fuel growth. While you need not blindly heed every word uttered by your mentor, don’t be stubborn or complacent. Possessing those qualities can prove to be fatal to professional development.
A mentor’s role is to provide a mentee with tools to grow. Unless these tools are used or even considered, there will be no growth. You should always be ready to welcome the advice of seasoned lawyers because it will be your responsibility to contribute to the growth of the legal profession. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not always work for another. Assess the guidance provided, determine if and how to adopt that guidance, and produce a result that is best for your circumstances.
Repeat after me: I am not perfect! Hear out your mentor when he or she offers feedback. This should be the easiest quality of them all. We like to hear positive feedback to boost our confidence, but we also must accept negative, constructive feedback as well. Do not get defensive with your mentor or make excuses. It is not the end of the world. Listen to the feedback, learn from the mistake, and consider it an opportunity to promote your professional growth.
I have learned many things by watching my mentors practice law. Some things I have replicated. Others, I have not. A mantra I have adopted as my own is that the time to build our brand is now! Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be afraid to take advice from a mentor. As a good mentee, you should possess these three qualities in order to produce a positive outcome from your mentor-mentee relationship. Will you be open and ready for change, or will you remain complacent as your colleagues pass you by? Go with the former, and be a winning mentee.