When we consider the various ways we are compensated as attorneys, we often focus on the obvious items as most valuable – such as salary, medical benefits and so on. I think the availability and use of a mentor is also incredibly valuable and should be considered throughout the job spectrum – whether you are just starting out or you’ve been at the same firm for years. Many firms have mentoring programs in place, but they are guided by the efforts and energy put in by the participants. Like any relationship, mentoring requires time and devotion — and having a connection that may transcend the normal friendship or boss-employee dynamic is important, too.
You may be engaged in relationships that are mentee-mentor and not even realize it. I’ve found that the best mentor-mentee relationships are those that are not imposed by firm management but are instead built upon a deeper connection. Perhaps a community service passion or a desire to develop a certain area of practice can help bridge the gap. I think it’s not in our nature to work with someone just because we are told to do so. It’s like trying to force someone to be a friend with a stranger – and without that desire, the mentor-mentee dynamic is just not going to work. It’ll just be a time sink and you’ll both walk way frustrated.
An official label doesn’t need to be used here. You just need to find someone who you can use as a sounding board, who can provide guidance on issues related to your clients, your business development and even your career path. Some people will be better at providing advice on certain issues – so you’ll want to create a team of sorts, some within your firm and some without. It’s like building your own dream squad of colleagues, really.
Finally, find someone who will encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone once in a while. Someone who will support you in taking on a potentially difficult client who may offer big rewards, or taking on a new job responsibility that you may be hesitant to attempt. Colleagues who can help you banish the fear that may hold you back from achieving true success are golden.
Do any of our readers have any suggestions for serving as a mentor-mentee?
Richard Adams is an associate with Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP in Baltimore.