"Are You My Mentor?" Choosing the Right Mentoring Partner, 021 COBJ, Vol. 50, No. 8 Pg. 8

PositionVol. 50, 8 [Page 8]

50 Colo.Law. 8

"Are You My Mentor?" Choosing the Right Mentoring Partner

Vol. 50, No. 8 [Page 8]

Colorado Lawyer

September, 2021

August, 2021



The trajectory of a legal career is informed by our choices. Decisions about where we work, the field of law we practice, and which clients we serve are some of the most influential we make as lawyers. However, a career is not shaped solely by the work we do each day. The relationships we make in the course of our work are a powerful tool for professional growth.

A mentorship is a good example of a career-defining relationship—it can lead to a new job, a promotion, or even better work-life integration. But the tricky thing about a mentorship is that it's often informal, which can make it difficult to know if you're connecting with the "right" person. This is even truer in nontraditional mentorships, such as peer-to-peer and reverse mentoring relationships, which also require an element of fit to be successful. Determining whether a mentor is the right professional partner requires an understanding of the characteristics of an effective mentor and prioritization of the characteristics that are particularly important to an individual mentoring pair. The element of "fit" looks different for every mentor . However, a mentoring relationship that's meaningful to both parties will fulfill four key functions: career development, psychosocial, engagement and enthusiasm, and role model.[1]

The Career Development Function

The career development function facilitates the mentee's advancement in the profession. Mentorships are associated with an array of positive career outcomes: mentees receive more promotions,2 have higher incomes,[3] and report more mobility4 and career satisfaction[5]than non-mentees. Mentors provide sponsorship, exposure, visibility, and coaching; make connections and introductions to others in the profession to help the mentee seek employment and advance within an organization; suggest conferences and CLEs; impart knowledge of practice competencies; and provide feedback on legal writing and trial techniques.6The best legal mentors, however, take on the additional roles of (1) capability developer and (2) thought partner.

Capability Developer

While all mentors do some teaching or instructing as part of their mentoring, the best mentors develop their mentee's capabilities by modeling specific behaviors and conveying ideas and processes one-on-one, in a tutoring mode.

Capability developing mentors serve as "learning brokers" to assist mentees in finding resources such as people, professional associations, reference materials, and CLE and leadership opportunities. They also teach mentees new knowledge, skills, and attitudes by explaining, giving effective examples, and asking thought-provoking questions.

Capability developing mentors do more than show a mentee the ropes of the profession. They help mentees gain broader perspectives of their organizations and the profession by generating an understanding of the history, values, culture, and politics that define the legal profession and legal organizations. They also...

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