“All of us are mentors. You’re mentors right here and now. And one of the things I’ve always done throughout my life, I have always found that person, that group of people that I was going to reach my hand out and help bring them along with me.”
– Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States
There is a lot I can say regarding the importance of mentorship and sponsorship in a profession that is fast-paced, competitive, and stressful. In the midst of a pandemic, I have found support and grace in a network of mentors and sponsors that have been pivotal to my success, both as a law student and now, as an articling student. Unfortunately, law students and young lawyers are taught to place greater value on grades and volunteer experiences, which tend to outshine the significance of having staunch supporters in their corner.
Law school is a jumping off point for finding your “place” in the profession and is not just solidified by excellent academic credentials and volunteer experiences, but also through cultivating meaningful and invaluable relationships with lawyers and other legal professionals. Having champions on your side really makes a difference.
Another key aspect of mentorship is ensuring that you establish mutually beneficial professional connections, and focus on maintaining those relationships throughout your career rather than just seeking out how others can support you. It is not enough to just focus on what you can get out of having a strong network; it’s also about ensuring that you pay it forward. Do you only seek out your mentors and sponsors when it is convenient for you? Or do you ensure that you periodically check in with them to see how they are doing? Throughout law school, I have stood on the saying, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Check your privilege and see how your own outlook of your network is delaying your role as a mentor and sponsor to an up-and-coming legal professional. Being a member of the legal profession is a privilege, and ensuring that we actively seek out opportunities to help others is imperative.