A law school education teaches different aspects of the law and how to think like a lawyer. What it doesn’t teach is how to practice law or the business of being a lawyer. That’s why it’s critical for newly minted lawyers and those in their early years of practice to have mentors from whom they can learn the ins and outs of working as a lawyer.
Mentors are valuable not only for substantive learning but they can also help young lawyers navigate law firm politics or provide tips for running a solo practice. They can introduce a young lawyer to their network of contacts, teach marketing strategies and assist with business development. From a mentor, a young lawyer can learn how to manage a caseload and meet client expectations. Mentors can provide advice on how to delegate work, hire staff, and grow a thriving law practice. When a young lawyer runs into a tough situation with a client or needs to learn how to juggle numerous cases, their mentor is someone who has been there, who knows the ropes, and who can provide sound advice and wisdom.
Over the past two years, when we’ve been isolated at home, our interpersonal relationships have been strained. And this encompasses our relationships with our mentors. Most of us have been working overtime just to struggle through our daily lives, managing so many changes to our world, health concerns, and ever-changing rules and guidelines that determine how we live and work. Getting through each day has been tough enough, and mentor-mentee relationships have been put on the back burner.
Now with Spring upon us, and what looks to be some signs that our work lives may be returning to “normal,” it is time to revisit the value of developing mentor relationships. Certainly, the proximity of being in the office together fosters the development of these relationships more rapidly than being stuck at home or isolated. Nonetheless, it’s not necessary to be in close physical contact to develop and continue this important bond.
For the young lawyer, keeping in touch and reaching out when questions arise can be enough to reap the benefit of having a mentor. Giving gratitude for a mentor’s guidance and wisdom can certainly keep the relationship flourishing. For the mentor, finding a young lawyer available and willing to dedicate some time to impart your knowledge and experience is all that is needed.
Passing down knowledge from the experienced attorney to the inexperienced is what keeps our profession going strong. While our work environment may look different than it did two years ago pre-pandemic, it does not mean that important relationships such as that between a mentor and mentee need to be set aside as well.