One-on-One Professional Development: Mentoring and Coaching in the Legal Profession, 1119 COBJ, Vol. 48, No. 10 Pg. 18

Position:Vol. 48, 10 [Page 18]

48 Colo.Law. 18

One-on-One Professional Development: Mentoring and Coaching in the Legal Profession

Vol. 48, No. 10 [Page 18]

Colorado Lawyer

November, 2019



Good mentoring relationships are important from the very beginning of a legal career. Effective mentors can help new lawyers decide which type of law might suit them and how they can tailor their career paths to align with their aspirations and values. Mentors provide practical knowledge and expertise to assist new lawyers in developing practice competencies and navigating the unwritten rules of the legal profession. Additionally, mentors can help new lawyers expand their professional networks so they can land a promising position or put themselves on a pathway to leadership opportunities.

It used to be that in the legal profession, experienced lawyers were expected to provide mentoring and professional development to new lawyers as their professional obligation, whether through apprenticeships, clerkships, or informal mentoring relationships within firms. In today's legal profession, many new lawyers lack opportunities for face time with seasoned attorneys and the notion of legal apprenticeships has all but disappeared entirely. For some new lawyers, personal relationships with veteran lawyers who model competency and professionalism may be inaccessible or unfeasible. Nevertheless, it is paramount that every attorney obtains meaningful mentorship to serve as a compass, a refuge, and a role model for successfully navigating the practice of law.

The Evolution of Legal Mentorships

Lawyers and the profession within which they operate are becoming increasingly diverse, multi-jurisdictional, and nimble. As a result, the need for legal mentoring extends beyond the traditional "new" lawyer and includes mid-career and senior lawyers experiencing career transition or career completion. Additionally, while mentoring is critical in a lawyer's early years, the need for mentorship doesn't end simply because a lawyer is no longer "new" to practice. To the contrary, the best mentoring relationships are long-term.

A great deal of mentoring still occurs informally within legal organizations, within bar associations, and between solo and small firm practitioners. Additionally, structured law firm mentoring programs have become increasingly common, to help equalize access to mentoring and avoid leaving to chance the likelihood that a particular new lawyer will receive the mentoring they need. Through these internal programs, legal mentoring has become more organized, supported, and purposeful. In an effort to meet the needs of lawyers without access to meaningful mentoring or seeking to supplement their informal mentoring relationships, states throughout the country began creating mentoring programs available to all lawyers, regardless of firm affiliation and in many cases, regardless of years of experience. The Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP), created in 2013, has evolved into one of the leading such programs in the nation.

The Emerging Role of Professional Coaching

In recent years...

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