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Why Finding a Mentor Is Important to Your Career

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Lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about mentorship and the value of having someone who’s looking out for you and advocating for your success. Without our mentors, in the early years of our legal career we would’ve been lost in the substantive, technical, and interpersonal aspects of law firm practice. The right mentor can change everything.

This week, if you haven’t already done so, think about selecting a mentor for your career. Your success depends on it.

When choosing your mentor, keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. Choose someone internal.

Your mentor should be someone internal (and not your uncle who’s a lawyer in the Cayman Islands). Your mentor should be in a position to help you decipher and navigate your specific office dynamics.

2. Choose someone in your practice group.

Choosing a mentor in your specific practice group will ensure that your mentor can help you on a day-to-day basis with any substantive questions you may have. Your mentor may also prove to be a good source of work when you’re slow.

3. Choose someone who’s trustworthy.

From time to time, you’ll have to rely on your mentor to help you negotiate sensitive issues, whether personal or legal practice related. Your mentor must be someone you can trust. While trust is a difficult thing to gauge at first, seek out someone who doesn’t gossip or speak badly of others. This is the type of mentor who will keep your confidences as well.

4. Choose someone sociable.

The best mentors are sociable and well-liked in your office. If your mentor is an outsider, he or she will likely not be in a good position to help you understand and integrate into your firm or other legal practice.

5. Choose someone reasonably busy.

While this may sound counterintuitive, you want a mentor who’s well-regarded from a work standpoint. As mentioned above, a busy mentor will prove to be a good source of work as well. (Of course, when relying on your mentor, whether your mentor is busy or not, be mindful and respectful of his or her time.)

6. Choose someone who’s been in your office for five or more years.

It’s important that your mentor actually understand your substantive legal practice as well as the office in which you practice. In fewer than five years, it’s difficult to have a comprehensive understanding of either of these things.

Make an effort to secure mentorship early in your career, and strive to be a mentor to someone more junior to you down the line.

Want more inside tips on thriving in your legal practice? Buy Desiree’s book, Thrive – A New Lawyer’s Guide to Law Firm Practice.

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