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Improve Your Legal Career With a Sponsor

In the final scene of the last Star Wars movie, a promising Rey holds out a light saber to Luke Skywalker like a protege reaching for her master.

Moviegoers won't know how that relationship turns out until "The Last Jedi" is released in December, but it will definitely balance the forces of good and evil. Will the relationship go toward the Force or will it turn to the Dark Side?

It's a classic question in a futuristic tale, but it plays out everyday in real life. So are you are looking for a mentor or a sponsor? And how will you know when you find the right one?

Mentors

First of all, a mentor is not a sponsor. Mentors, says columnist Shannon Achimable, provide practice advice.

"They may have some career advice, but they probably don't know you too well and they are too busy with their own lives," she writes for AbovetheLaw. "What you want to look for is a sponsor."

A sponsor is a career advocate, someone who is willing to put their name on the line for you. Plus, a sponsor is a person who has the resources and connections give you a hand up the hill.

Like Luke, only without the mechanical hand.

Sponsors

Jim Hayden, a partner at White & Case, filled that role for attorney Someera Khokhar. When clients balked at working with an associate, Hayden vouched for her expertise. When she had a conflict with another partner, he intervened.

"Every time I needed something, he made it happen, whether by his presence or his influence," Khokhar told Harvard Business Review. In time, she made partner, too.

It worked out because the relationship was based on genuine, professional motivations: Hayden wanted to help Khokhar develop in her career; Khokhar wanted to rise to the occasion.

Like Rey and Luke, we hope.

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