Mentors Come in Different Shapes and Sizes
Don’t have a preconceived notion of what a good or helpful mentor will be. A good mentor doesn’t have to have practiced for 30 years, and a bad mentor won’t necessarily be the second-year lawyer with little experience. There is no such thing as the “perfect” mentor; there is only the right mentor for you.
Don’t Limit Yourself
Mentoring does not have to be monogamous. Connecting with as many possible mentors as you can is always a good thing. And over time, maintaining strong relationships with mentors who click with you and who have committed themselves to your professional development will continue to pay dividends.
Say Yes Whenever You Can
If an attorney invites you to attend a deposition or hearing, jump at the chance, even if it means staying up later that night to catch up on the work you missed. If you have a chance to go to a local bar meeting or participate in a practice area-specific group or association, do it.
Keep an Open Mind
Part of being a good mentor is dishing out advice on improvement and growth, and part of being a good mentee is a willingness to hear and accept that advice without hurt feelings. Mentoring is about self-improvement and growth. A good mentor should inspire you to act toward those ends.
Don’t Have Set Expectations
You never know where a mentor-mentee relationship will go. Don’t seek someone out only because you think they can help get you a job or connect you with someone who can. Of course, those things are important, but you will find the mentor-mentee relationship develops so much more naturally if you go into it with no set expectations or agendas.
Take Advantage of Resources
There is simply no excuse for not getting involved because there is no shortage of opportunities to do so. Join your local and state bar association, meet with more experienced attorneys regularly, and take advantage of lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring programs.
Look Backward and Forward
Reach out to new connections who might make good mentors, but don’t forget about those who helped guide you through law school. They can be an invaluable resource as you move into the professional world.
Be a Mentor Yourself
New lawyers are often best suited to be mentors to young lawyers and law students. They have gained some practical experience in the professional world, but are not so far removed from law school or the first year or two of practice that they have forgotten what it’s like.
Never Stop Learning and Growing
There is no point at which you can reasonably say that you have been mentored “enough.” Having someone to confide in, look up to, and rely on as a guide is important whether you’ve been practice three years or thirty years.
The legal profession is one that both embraces and requires lifelong learning. From the day you are sworn in, to the day you retire, it is important to keep perspective and grow wherever, whenever, and however you can. Finding a mentor is among the first steps in that ongoing process, and fortunately for the new lawyer, mentors aren’t hard to find. They are all around us.