Mentor me
Monday, November 14, 2016
Justinian in Barely Legal, Law students

Finishing law school is an absolute fright ... The outside world is formidable ... What is needed is a mentor ... Barely Legal has a four-point plan for good mentoring 

MY time in the law school cave is drawing to a close. No more foraging around the internet for articles. No more hunting for good notes. No more Darwinian combat with my peers on a bell curve. 

To finish law school places me in a very strange position. I should be feeling prepared for the legal jungle that awaits. Yet, something's missing. 

As I step out of the cave and into the sunlight, eyes squinting, I'm overawed by my many inadequacies, especially: how in the name of Denning am I supposed to forge a career in this legal jungle into which I have stumbled?  

Who can guide my uncertain footsteps and point me in the right direction? After all, one of the things that universities don't include in a six-figure law degree is a mentor. 

Once more unto the teach

Good mentors are a diamond in the rough and in the legal caper the rough can be expansive, loaded with expectations that new entrants should pick-up the baton quickly. After all, senior lawyers don't necessarily have time to keep a hand on your fledgling shoulder. 

I know that new law firm recruits can quickly lose direction, so what I'm hoping is that some saintly mentor can reveal the meaning of life and teach me the ropes. 

However, do those you have respected early in your pathway to glory necessarily make good mentors? 

Making a mentor 

I found a mentor quite early in the piece, so here are my thoughts, for free. 

The best advice is to track down a person you respect and try to hitch a ride in their professional circle as quickly as possible. If you can't, simply ask them straight-up if they want to sit down for a coffee, and hope for the best. 

A Baltasar Gracián approach to finding the perfect mentor may be helpful:  

Patience

This is essential for a good mentor, who from the start must appreciate you will be hopeless and make mistakes. Kindness is also an important quality. The last thing you want early in your career is a foul-tempered, impatient tutor. 

Ability

Although this might go without saying, a mentor should be very good at what they do, preferably the best in the firm or office. 

Drive

Your mentor should be ambitious and want to develop professionally. Ideally, to use a frightful term, it should be a "win-win" situation.

A sense of humour

A humourless beginning goes a long way to contributing to an early exit. Find someone who makes you smile, because you'll need to enjoy their company. 

There is a handy proverb: "as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." I hope the iron age awaits me outside the law school cave. 

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (http://justinian.com.au/).
See website for complete article licensing information.