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How to get a Busy Lawyer to Be your Mentor

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on April 02, 2015 11:53 AM

We've talked before about the importance of mentors. They give you advice, they give you experience, and hey, if you play your cards right, they just might point you toward a job opening.

The reality, though, is that once you're out of law school, your mentors will be practitioners, and they're very busy -- too busy, it would seem, to take a green lawyer under their wing. As it turns out, though, you can even get those busy lawyers to pay attention to you.

Side-Work

One of the best ways to gain a mentor, even a busy one, is to help another lawyer out. It can be as simple as marking up a deposition transcript or conducting a little bit of research. In time (yes, developing a mentoring relationship takes time), your new friend will rely on you and give you advice. But you have to prove yourself first; that is, show your putative mentor that you're worth the expenditure by doing great work.

Temper Expectations

From the mentor-lawyer's perspective, he or she might think the mentoring process is going to be demanding and that you'll expect a life coach a la Mr. Miyagi. The prospect of taking someone under a wing can be frightening and seem like a big commitment. (Is this person going to be calling me every hour of every day demanding personal affirmations??)

To increase your chances of getting a busy lawyer to mentor you (and take note that the busiest lawyers are unfortunately also the best mentors), let them know that you expect occasional career advice, not deep spiritual guidance. Establish fixed meetings, and even boundaries, so your potential mentor isn't scared off by the misperception that you're looking for a sensei, not a colleague.

Have a Couple of Mentors

Who says you need to devote all of your time to one person? Slaw, an online Canadian legal magazine, suggests having two mentors: One for career support, and other for "psychosocial support," which consists of "develop[ing] the mentee's sense of identity and competence at what they're doing." Basically, the career mentor helps with professional development, while the psychosocial mentor focuses on more big-picture career goals. By splitting these tasks up, you can get two busy lawyers to do what each of them has time to do (and perhaps find lawyers who are better at each respective skill).

It can be daunting at first to ask another lawyer to take on yet another project -- i.e., you -- but many attorneys like to "pay it forward" by helping a newly minted lawyer out as they were helped out in the past. (Plus, lawyers like to hear themselves talk, so it's not totally altruistic.)

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