There's a lot of information out there on how important mentors are for solo attorneys and how to find the right mentor as a new attorney. But what about being a good mentor for other lawyers?
Most attorneys have benefitted from a mentor at some point in their careers, so it seems only fair that you give back when you have the time and knowledge to help out someone who's new. But being an experienced attorney isn't the same as being a good mentor.
Mentoring doesn't have to take up a lot of your time, but it does require some skill. When it comes time to pay your karmic dues, here are five tips to make sure your mentoring skills are up to snuff:
Find the right mentee. Just like it's important to find the right mentor for you, it's important as a mentor to audition your mentee as well. Find out if her legal interests match up with your experience, and whether you feel comfortable advising her about her goals. If your mentee's goals aren't things that you value, then maybe you should find someone else.
Don't do all the work yourself. It's good for you to take the initiative in contacting your mentee, but make sure she's invested in the relationship too. Encourage her to contact you and set up meetings, and to get in touch when she needs help. That will make her more independent and take some pressure off of you.
Help them network. Part of the job of a mentor is to help someone get to know other people in the field. When your mentee has an issue that you don't know much about, refer her to a friend who knows more. Giving her contacts to build her network is a huge gift that a new attorney won't get any other way.
Get out of the office. Sure it's convenient to meet at your office, but it's also good to meet for a drink or a meal sometimes. Mentoring isn't just about work, it also includes some life advice. Know your mentee as a person, not just as a lawyer, and you'll have a better idea of how to help.
Listen. Attorneys are not the best listeners if they aren't looking for a solution to the problem. Sometimes what a mentee needs is just a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, or someone to help them perfect a pitch. Your mentee wants a mentor, not an attorney, so make sure that's what you are.