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After the Bar

Professional Development

How to Make the Most of Partner Mentors Within Your Law Firm

Brian M King


  • Consider the size and structure of your law firm for partner-associate interactions.
  • Utilize formal mentorship programs within your law firm, ensuring that mentorship pairings align with your communication style and personality, and have mentors both within and outside your practice group.
  • Recognize that effort from both the associate and the partner is crucial for effective mentorship; reassignment is an option if mentorship becomes unproductive, and setting up recurring check-ins and engaging in activities outside the office can help foster a successful mentoring relationship.
How to Make the Most of Partner Mentors Within Your Law Firm

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Seeking advice and mentorship from partners in your law firm can be tough when managing your own projects and personal commitments. Luckily, many partners and senior attorneys have been in your shoes and are very familiar with juggling law firm life and everyday responsibilities. For the best results in seeking advice and mentorship from partners in your law firm, consider the size and structure of your law firm, mentorship opportunities within your law firm, and strategies for making the most of partner-associate interactions.

Law Firm Size and Structure Matter in Partner-Associate Interactions

A large firm or practice group usually offers associates “face time” with senior associates more often than partners. In contrast, smaller firms or practice groups usually allow associates to communicate with partners more frequently. Law firms with top-heavy practices (more partners than associates) are ideal for partner-associate interactions since associates will routinely interact with partners.

If you are in a law firm or practice group with more associates than partners, be strategic and opportunistic when interacting with partners by adding value to partners before seeking value from partners. For example, consider attending CLEs hosted by partners, offering to help partners on projects of interest or with CLEs or client pitches, or simply being available. For associates in top-heavy practices, take full advantage of your placement. Working with various partners is great as a young attorney because you gain practice experience from multiple partners.

Those with limited partner interaction can use law firm leverage to their advantage by gaining insight from other associates and staff, such as paralegals and practice assistants, on how best to approach certain partners. Although many associates shy away from initiating communication with partners and senior associates, this is problematic for growth and exposure within the law firm.

Take Advantage of Formal Mentorship Programs Within Your Law Firm

Associates should also take advantage of formal mentorship programs within law firms. Mentorship may be available through programs like Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, internal affinity groups, or practice groups. A good approach is having a mentor in your practice group and another mentor outside of your practice group. The mentor in your practice group helps you navigate through legal challenges in the practice area, answer legal questions related to the practice, and be aware of your project flow for additional staffing on matters. The partner outside your practice group provides an outlet for you to voice your concerns and give general advice on life at the law firm.

Regardless of what type of formal mentorship opportunities your firm offers, you should do your best to make sure any partner mentor you are paired up with is a good fit for you in terms of personality, communication style, and work ethic. Ultimately, a great mentorship pairing is with a partner who shares both legal and nonlegal interests with you. Similar interests include the same school attended, hobbies, first-gen lawyers, lawyers with families, and many others. In addition, partners with uncommon interests provide a different perspective as an attorney, which is beneficial for the development of the associate.

Mentorship Requires Effort from Both the Associate and the Partner

Always remember that your mentor in a law firm can change if you and the partner do not make the most of the mentorship. Not every partner is meant to be a mentor, and mentorship requires effort from both the associate and the partner—though, as mentioned above, associates should attempt to provide value before seeking value. Reassignment can occur when associates feel uncomfortable or ghosted during the mentorship. Identify a neutral party who can reassign you to another partner when the mentorship becomes unproductive for either the associate or the partner.

Be Strategic and Honest when Entering a Mentorship at Your Law Firm

Being a mentee requires as much effort as from the partner serving as a mentor. Lay out a roadmap of what you expect to get out of the mentorship and set up recurring check-in meetings for the duration of the mentorship to make sure you stay engaged with each other. Setting up meetings out of the office—whether for coffee, lunch, or something else - can help keep the recurring check-in meetings interesting. By staying active and engaged in your mentoring relationship, you will do your part to cultivate a personal and professional relationship that will help you at the beginning of your legal career and beyond.