Recently, one of my close mentors – Neil – passed away. While I have known this person for about four years, he had made a significant impact on my life – not because he was a family member or a personal friend, but because he was someone without whom I would not be the lawyer I am today.
I would like to dedicate this article to a crucial and sometimes unspoken component of lawyering and the legal community: mentorship. The concept of mentorship is something that is recorded as early as the Ancient Greek poet Homer’s Odyssey, where Mentor, an old friend and companion of Odysseus, takes care of Odysseus’ son while the hero leaves to fight the Trojan War. While Odysseus is away, Mentor takes care of his son, teaches and guides him to succeed as a man. It is from Mentor that we obtain the term “mentorship”, or the guidance of a wise adviser or a friend.
In the media, lawyers are often depicted as these cruel, heartless titans that operate on caffeine and care only about their billable hours and pleasing clients. What this image hides is the extent of care, non-billable time, and commitment that senior and mid-level lawyers place on the development of junior lawyers and the legal community as a whole.
By and large, a significant portion of lawyering has nothing to knowledge of the law or information that can be learned through textbooks and classrooms. The crux of being a lawyer comes down to experience and strategy, which is readily and generously passed down from the former generation to the newer one. From bar organizations to cultural groups to individual lawyers, there is an abundance of lawyers willing to give their time and wisdom onto newer, inexperienced members of the legal community.
Mentorship is also not necessarily qualified by time or depth of involvement. There are times when young lawyers, myself included, have not dealt with a unique situation and cold-call/E-Mail more senior counsel who we may have limited or no previous contact with. Irrespective of the lack of relationship, there is almost always a willingness to have a quick call, meet for a coffee, or share a precedent.
The point of this short essay was not to glorify senior lawyers, but rather bring attention to those lawyers who have not yet had an opportunity to contribute to the legal community. Mentorship exists at all levels: law students to undergraduate students, articling students to law students, young associates to articling students, etc. For those of you who have not done so yet, reach out to a more senior colleague or have a chat with a junior colleague. See if there’s something they can teach you. Your growth and success is their growth and success. As much as you will appreciate them, I am positive they will appreciate you.
The foregoing is for informational purposes only and should in no way be relied upon as legal advice. If you have any further questions, or would like to schedule an appointment for legal advice tailored to your circumstances and business, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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