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It's a common truism that a every lawyer should have a mentor. Having someone wiser and more experienced to bounce ideas off of, seek out professional advice, or model your advancement after can help make a career, or at least make one easier.
But for in-house counsel, finding a mentor can pose some unique challenges. You may be one of a few lawyers in your department, or you may be working in an isolated industry or location. But don't worry if you don't have senior partners to take you under their wings -- here are three ways to find a mentor while working in-house.
1. Don't be Afraid of Your Predecessors
Unless the in-house counsel before you left the company burning every bridge behind her, she or he may be a great source of knowledge and advice. Just because someone left the job doesn't mean they aren't still invested in it, so take advantage of that when seeking out someone who can help guide your development. After all, a mentor is someone whose career path you should want to emulate -- with your predecessor, you're already well on your way.
2. Tap Your Network
As always, leveraging your professional and educational connections can be invaluable, whether it's finding a job or a mentor. Check with your law school's alumni association to see if there are any graduates involved in your field or area. You can also look for alumni or former colleagues who, even if they aren't in your particular field, have also made the jump into in-house representation. For new in-house counsel, these people can provide wealth of knowledge about the transition from a traditional firm to working as corporate counsel.
3. Build a New Network, Then Tap It
If you haven't been able to find a mentor in your existing network, expand it. Joining a section of your local bar association can put you in touch with lawyers you wouldn't have met otherwise. The same goes for joining non-legal professional associations, where you can meet professionals, including other corporate counsel, who will often be willing to share their experience with you. Reminder, the wider a net you cast, the more potential mentors you'll have to choose from.
Your network doesn't have to be built in person, either. GC's who are isolated, whether in a small company, small industry, or small town, may have great luck getting in touch with similar attorneys online. These web-based professional networking communities can provide a place for you to share ideas, learn from others' experiences and potentially find a new mentor.