There is a great deal of value to be found in finding a successful mentor- someone who is looking out for you and advocating for your success. Without my mentor in the early years of my legal career I would have been lost in the substantive, technical, and interpersonal aspects of my law firm practice. The right mentor can change everything.
When choosing your mentor, keep the following guidelines in mind:
1. Choose Someone Internal
Your mentor should be someone internal (and not your uncle who is a lawyer in the Cayman Islands). Your mentor should be in a position to help you decipher and navigate your specific office dynamics.
2. Choose Someone In Your Practice Group
Choosing a mentor in your specific practice group will ensure that your mentor can help you on a day to day basis with any substantive questions you may have. Your mentor may also prove to be a good source of work when you are slow.
3. Choose Someone Who Is Trustworthy:
From time to time, you will have to rely on your mentor to help you negotiate sensitive issues, whether personal or legal practice related. Your mentor must be someone you can trust. While trust is a difficult thing to gauge at first, seek out someone who does not gossip or speak badly of others. This is the type of mentor who will keep your confidences, as well.
4. Choose Someone Who Is Sociable
The best mentors are sociable and well-liked in your office. If your mentor is an outsider, he or she will likely not be in a good position to help you understand and integrate into your firm or other legal practice.
5. Choose Someone Who Is Reasonably Busy
While this may sound counter intuitive, you want a mentor who is well-regarded from a work standpoint. As mentioned above, a busy mentor will prove to be a good source of work, as well. (Of course, when relying on your mentor be mindful and respectful of his or her time.)
6. Choose Someone Who Has Been With Your Office 5+ Years
It is important that your mentor actually understand your substantive legal practice as well as the office in which you practice. In fewer than 5 years, it is difficult to have a comprehensive understanding of either of these things.
Finally: Make an effort to secure mentorship early in your career, and strive to be a mentor to someone more junior to you down the line.