How to be a good mentor

Support and guidance among women lawyers is especially critical.

When I first started my journalism career in the late 1990s, I had already been out of college for a few years—traveling and doing the “young” thing—before I considered settling down for a real job. So by the time I started pounding the pavement for journalism work, I really had to sell myself.

Living in the Pacific Northwest at the time, I landed an interview for an unpaid internship at Seattle magazine. 

Having no experience other than school work and talking at length in my interview about the importance of the Internet (in the 1990s, this was taboo in journalism), I did not impress the editor. However, the managing editor, Jeff, made a case for me, and a few days later, I was the magazine’s newest editorial assistant.

It didn’t take long for me to realize how much I didn’t know. But Jeff took me under his wing. And over the course of the next year, he taught me a lot about print journalism, molding me into a great candidate for an assistant editor position.

When I moved back to Chicago, I got exactly that. In 2003, I landed at Corporate Legal Times (now InsideCounsel) as associate editor, working under my predecessor, Rob Vosper. Rob helped me take my career to the next level. He was hard on me, but he turned me into a better writer and reporter. He also taught me how to be a good leader. So when his time came to move on, he recommended I be the next editor-in-chief.

Without Jeff and Rob, my two mentors, I wouldn’t be in a senior-level position at a successful legal publication as I am today. Mentorship is critical across all professions. And it’s especially important among lawyers—particularly women lawyers. While women are making up larger percentages of law school graduates, those stats aren’t mirrored in corporate legal departments. Challenges such as starting and raising families while taking care of households have forced some women to put their legal careers on hold, which often translates into losing out on or stalling advancement opportunities.

Some women have hurdled those barriers, building successful careers in the corporate legal profession—all with the help of mentors. In this issue, InsideCounsel honors some of those women, who all agreed they wouldn’t be where they are without the mentors they had as they were building their careers.

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