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DTCI: Mentoring – taking care of lawyering business

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dtci-muse-cindyGuess what? Unless you keep your office door closed, don’t talk on the telephone and don’t use email/Facebook/Twitter, you mentor every working day. Mentoring in our careers as legal professionals means that through working relationships with others, we grow professionally and oftentimes personally. Those relationships can be formal or informal, recognized or unrecognized, appreciated or unappreciated. But they are all around us every hour of every day:

• a colleague who stops by your open office door to run a case by you for your thoughts;

• a paralegal who emails you for suggestions on a document she is drafting;

• a co-worker’s son who is considering law as a profession and needs some advice from you; and

• an attorney who is newly admitted to the bar but still trying to find the “right” job.

All these and more are mentoring opportunities. Guess what again? Those opportunities will not only help the mentee to grow professionally through his relationship with you, but you also will be rewarded by growing professionally and personally, too.

So, where to start?

A few tips for mentees

Have a sense of what you need or are looking for. Do you need a one-time consult to answer a specific question, or are you looking for a go-to person who can guide you over time? Be able to define the parameters of the relationship for the potential mentor.

Keep your head up, your eyes wide open and your ears perked because mentoring is everywhere, and there are lots of folks who are willing to help if you just ask. This leads to the third tip.

Ask. Don’t wait for your boss, teacher or significant other to recognize that you would benefit from mentoring and initiate the relationship for you. Rather, recognize it yourself, identify potential mentors and ask.

Once you’ve asked, be persistent and follow up. Those who mentor are often the busiest of the busy, so politely remind them you are still out there needing their expertise.

Appreciate your mentors. Thank them for their time and effort. An appreciated mentor will be part of your professional network for years to come.

A few tips for mentors

Be approachable. Open your door, respond to emails and phone calls, engage less-experienced attorneys in conversation at continuing education seminars, and participate in law and office functions.

Once approached, listen to what is being asked. Stop reading, typing or talking. Give the mentee your full attention.

And if you can, don’t judge or criticize. Understand that the person seeking your help is searching and may not know exactly where to search or how to speak the special language we’ve developed in Indiana’s legal community.

To keep mentees coming back, be responsible and dependable. Carry through on what you have promised, even if you’ve blown the target date.

Keep your eyes open and ears perked for opportunities that might match up with folks you know are seeking some answers or guidance.

Continue to develop your own professional network. Until it happens, you don’t know when you may need the assistance of your colleagues to find the “right” job for you or to give you practice pointers in an unfamiliar area of the law.

For both mentees and mentors

Get involved in the legal community or community at large. Participating in an organization with a mission that benefits others is a great way to broaden your knowledge and expand your network to include folks in and outside the legal profession. Plus, it is rewarding … you will make a difference!•

__________

Ms. Muse is an attorney in the Indianapolis office of State Farm Litigation Counsel and is a member of the DTCI. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. Oh, the name calling was not name calling, it was merely social commentary making this point, which is on the minds of many, as an aside to the article's focus: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100111082327AAmlmMa Or, if you prefer a local angle, I give you exhibit A in that analysis of viva la difference: http://fox59.com/2015/03/16/moed-appears-on-house-floor-says-hes-not-resigning/

  2. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  3. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  4. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  5. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

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