- There is a wealth of mentoring resources available to young lawyers, so much so that it can be challenging to know exactly where to turn for the most effective and lasting impact. Take advantage of every opportunity.
In seeking a mentor as a new lawyer, you will find yourself in a simultaneously enviable and overwhelming position: there is a wealth of mentoring resources available to young lawyers, so much so that it can be challenging to know exactly where to turn for the most effective and lasting impact. As in most aspects of life and law, diversity is key. Take advantage of every opportunity and sample the whole menu of mentoring options.
Most state and local bar associations offer loads of information for new lawyers—everything from information about mandatory CLE requirements, checklists for opening your first office, and guidance on compliance with the rules of ethics. Young lawyer divisions or sections of state and local bar associations can serve as particularly good conduits to mentorship opportunities, connecting young lawyers with more experienced hands in their practice area(s) of interest. These opportunities are not limited to young lawyers alone; future members of the bar and law students would be wise to take advantage of these mentoring programs as an opportunity to learn from experienced attorneys who might someday offer them a job.
The National Legal Mentoring Consortium (NLMC), has compiled an impressive and wide-ranging list of mentoring programs from throughout the country, ranging from programs offered by state and local bar associations to practice area-specific programs. For a young lawyer uncertain of his mentoring “needs” and even less certain of the available mentoring options and programs, a centralized listing like the one offered by NLMC would be a good place to start.
Most accredited law schools offer a legal mentoring program, sometimes tied to a state or local bar association. Attorneys, by and large, are excited at the prospect of helping a future member of the bar find his or her way. Many law schools put on programs and Q&A sessions that afford law students with an opportunity to interact directly with successful attorneys.
Some larger firms offer direct mentoring programs to new attorneys, and for the most part, these are mandatory. Young attorneys should not view these programs as just another in a long line of mandatory requirements they have to comply with but instead seize the opportunity to soak up as much information and knowledge as possible. The early years of an attorney’s career are the most formative. Don’t waste the chance to make them count.
Active engagement in practice-area and special bar associations and groups is another great opportunity to connect with potential mentors, and the connections made here could prove especially valuable. Mentorship within a special bar (e.g., plaintiff-oriented or defense-oriented) or practice-area association allows for cultivating professional relationships and skills within the areas of practice most interesting to a young lawyer.
Membership in cultural and community groups and associations, such as special bar groups for minorities, allows a young lawyer to find mentors who share similar backgrounds and cultural experiences. Often, these commonalities can facilitate a strong bond of friendship and relatability—the hallmarks of successful mentor-mentee relationships.
Mentoring is not a science. There are many great resources that will link the young lawyer to a mentor, but sometimes it’s simply a matter of picking up the phone and calling someone you have an interest in meeting. A young lawyer should utilize these various resources to make connections and then follow up with people who might make strong mentors in the infancy of one’s legal career.
In finding a mentor, the institutional resources available to the young lawyer are plentiful, but keep in mind that sometimes it’s just a matter of showing up, following through, and listening. These resources help, but to find a good mentor, the young lawyer often does not have to look very far.