Mentoring helps attorneys at all levels advance their careers

Programs allow seasoned lawyers to impart wisdom to the next generation

Online Exclusive: Columbia Law takes an innovative approach to mentoring

Wisdom is a rather ethereal quality. The concept itself means many things to different people, but largely centers on a deep understanding of people or things and the events and situations that surround them. Classical Greek philosophers considered wisdom to be one of the most important virtues, and many devoted their lives to teaching about ideas and experiences that they hoped would instill a similar pursuit of wisdom in their pupils.

Important Benefits

Ask most anyone in the legal profession and they will likely agree that mentoring is one of the most critical components to a lawyer’s success. A mentor can give a lawyer the tools needed to understand how to navigate his career, regardless of whether it’s in-house, or at a law firm, non-profit or a government agency. Not only do mentors instruct their protégés about points of view, experiences and skill sets that are different from their own, but mentors also can help them feel more comfortable and included in organizations. There also is a sponsorship aspect to the mentoring relationship, through which the mentor actively and affirmatively advocates for the protégé in his relationships with other people. The importance of this type of education and grooming cannot be discounted.

Defining Traits

In order to truly benefit from any mentoring relationship, both the mentor and protégé must ensure that they’re trustworthy, open and willing to participate in the requisite level of giveand- take inherent in any good personal interaction. First and foremost, for mentors, it’s imperative that they commit the time needed to make the relationship work.

Practical Programs

The frequency with which corporate legal departments have mentoring programs, or the levels of complexity or formality in which they exist, varies widely among companies. Pete Boerner, a managing director in legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa’s In-House Practice Group, says that he doesn’t see many formal mentoring programs at companies. If they do exist, they’re either informal or not talked about since they’re not necessarily something general counsel or legal departments see themselves needing.

Going Forward

Because not every company or legal department has a formal mentoring program, people desiring additional tutoring should seek out mentors on their own. Phillips says that if people dig hard enough, there may be an affinity, diversity inclusion or HR group tasked with professional development at the organization that can help recommend a mentor.

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