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Be A Hero: Be A Mentor

  • 01 décembre 2012


In this age of electronic information, mentorship is an oft-overlooked component of professional development. Six lawyers explain how a personal connection can make a world of difference in your career.

Mark Berlin
McGill University

“I take great pride in their successes and achievements”

When I was approached to co-chair the YLD East mentoring program I was slightly taken aback. Well more than slightly, I was neither young or in need of a mentor. Why would anyone suggest me?

Problem was, I was speaking with Alayna Miller - a quiet, determined force of nature. So we embarked on this journey to establish the OBA's mentorship program. Thankfully we had OBA Sections Director Cathy Robinson to guide us along. The truth is this is not a one way street; it's as rewarding for the mentees, who have a chance to ask questions about practice and the law in a non-judgmental environment and to learn some of the tricks of the trade, as it is for the mentors, who have the opportunity to learn what's on the minds of and what drives and motivates newer members of the profession.

The OBA matches pairs by areas of interest or personal characteristics. It's not a dating service, but time is taken to assure that the teams we put together will have a great mutuality of interest.

I have grown and benefited from each of the mentees I have had the pleasure of working with. I take great pride in their successes and achievements and worry about them when they face challenging times.

I never for a moment regretted saying yes to Alayna.

Alayna Miller
Sevigny Westdal LLP

“It’s nice to know that someone is thinking of you”

I’m at a unique juncture with the OBA’s mentorship program. I’ve had the chance to help shape it, to be mentored under it, and now, for the first time, I am a mentor myself.

We’ve seen the excitement that the annual mentorship breakfast brings as our pairs meet for the first time. We’ve heard stories of mentors helping mentees in job hunts, inviting them to firm parties, or of a mentor attending a mentee’s call to the bar.

I’ve had the experience of using lunch meetings with my mentor to decompress professionally; learn about the idiosyncrasies of different forums (Ontario Human Rights Tribunal versus Small Claims versus Public Service Labour Relations Board, for instance); learn about continuing legal education programs of interest; and simply to connect on a human level with a senior member of the bar. My mentor is amazing at sending along articles and events of interest. It’s nice to know that someone is thinking of you.

While I certainly still need my mentor, I’m excited to pass along some guidance to my new mentee. And at our recent breakfast in Ottawa, all three of us connected. The program is a great way to network, too.

Patricia Simpson
Carroll Simpson LLP

“It can be refreshing to spend time with an energetic young lawyer”

Mentors who generously give their time continue the best traditions of the profession to assist other, often newer, lawyers. Mentees should be congratulated for making this investment in their careers and in the profession.

It struck me while I was reading the mentee applications that there are many different ways to use a mentor. There are mentees:

  • looking to land that first or next job and wanting advice about doing so;
  • in small or solo firms or departments that don’t have senior lawyers to consult. Sometimes what seems like a big problem to a new lawyer is something that the senior lawyer has seen hundreds of times;
  • in big firms or departments that would prefer to have certain discussions outside of their workplace;
  • wanting assistance with practice-related issues in a particular area of law or wanting assistance with developing the affiliations or the network necessary to be successful in a particular area of law;
  • wanting advice about running and building a practice;
  • wanting advice about performance and how to negotiate with their employer;

There are many reasons to spend the time to be a mentor. There are mentors who:

  • recognize that many people provided them with support and advice and the right thing to do is to pay it forward;
  • know that it can be refreshing to spend time with an energetic young lawyer;
  • seek a worthwhile opportunity to get out from behind the desk.

A good mentee is respectful of the mentor’s time, and focused about what he or she needs from the mentor, but good about picking up the phone to call.

Ian Mackenzie
Mackenzie DRS

“It is always interesting to meet new people”

Being a mentor has given me a great opportunity to learn about the new challenges facing young lawyers. It also forces me to reflect on my early experiences in the profession and the impact on where I am today. I always emphasize the importance of networking in my discussions with mentees. And this reflection on networking has resulted in me honing my own networking approaches.

It is always interesting to meet new people, learn about their backgrounds and how they came to law. Being a mentor is also a great excuse for a coffee or lunch in the middle of a busy week. After each year goes by, I stay in touch with my former mentee and get an opportunity to see how they grow into their new roles as lawyers.

Leanna Olson
Norton Rose LLP

“Someone to share my successes and new experiences”

I have been a mentee since the OBA mentorship program was first introduced in the Ottawa area. The relationships that I have developed with my mentors have been invaluable as I transitioned from articling to my first year of practice to now. I have appreciated having someone to talk with when I have encountered some of the challenging moments of practising law, someone to remind me about balance and the important relationships in my life that need to be nurtured and someone to share my successes and new experiences with.

My experience with the OBA mentorship program has lead me to volunteer to become one of the co-chairs of the OBA mentorship program this year. I wish all of the new mentor and mentee matches for this year success and challenge you to truly build the relationship that you have just started.

Chantelle Bowers
Federal Court of Appeal

“It has reminded me of why I went into law to begin with”

In my own experience over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of working with some lovely young women within the federal government structure. One woman was doing an internship with the Department of Justice, another woman was articling for the Federal Court, another woman was articling for the CRTC, and the most recent woman was a newly called lawyer working for Canada Post. My mentorship consisted of meeting with them as regularly as possible, over coffee, breakfast, lunch, or walks.

We would often discuss developments in their work and in their apprenticeship and I would provide them with some guidance and suggestions, based on my own experience within the legal, judicial and academic context.

Quite frankly, I feel that I have gained more from the experience than what I have been able to give over the years, and the energy, enthusiasm and sheer eagerness apparent in these young women has given me a renewed sense of appreciation for the law. It has reminded me of why I went into law to begin with, and it has strengthened my belief in mentoring the newcomers, for they are the face of all of our futures.  

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