Navigating the Mentor-Mentee Relationship by Director for Career Planning at Marquette University Law School, Erin Binns
Depending on the relationship and the moment, they may serve as your cheerleader, coach, reality check, therapist, and/or teacher – and who doesn’t need one or all of those from time to time?
I find four compelling reasons, among many others, that make it particularly important for you to establish mentor-mentee relationships:
The legal market. Getting and keeping legal positions is a competitive business. You need direction, connections and endorsements throughout your job search and career. Having go-to people who know your strengths and potential and who are invested in your well-being and successes gives you an advantage. This is particularly true when you consider the number of graduates each year citing “referrals” as their job source.
The other stuff lawyers do. You’ll leave law school equipped to tackle nearly any set of facts a client delivers, but practicing involves a lot more than finding answers to legal matters. Client development and marketing, supervising staff, managing your calendar, traversing office politics, and handling client payments are examples among myriad other tasks and responsibilities that may befall you early in your career. Mentors can model for you and guide you through the how-tos of managing and running your practice.
Lack of perspective. All of us lack perspective as we approach new experiences. This is definitely true as a law student and young lawyer. It’s easy to misinterpret an assignment or misjudge a professor’s or partner’s expectations. You need someone to talk you off the proverbial ledge the first ten times you convince yourself you committed malpractice or made a career-ending mistake. Having a trusted adviser providing context to your missteps and successes can alleviate or keep in check anxiety and stress. A mentor who is willing to be an honest assessor of your work and professional development is a gift.
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