Mentorship Matters


Mentorship Matters

You’re a lawyer and experiencing burnout. Who would you talk to about it? When was the last time you felt pride in the accomplishments of someone other than yourself? If you struggle with these questions, the answer might be found in mentorship.

Mentees can benefit from effective mentorship in obvious ways, such as increasing proficiency in their legal skills. However, they also benefit from having someone root for them, introduce them to people, and give them a safe place to vent. Mentors increase their knowledge and skills through teaching, and often learn new things themselves.

Mentoring is work, but the payoff is worthwhile. These general tips focus on how you can foster a mutually beneficial mentorship relationship in your workplace.

Tips for mentors

  1. Make a plan. Set a meeting early on to clearly communicate expectations and answer questions. Provide internal deadlines and ensure that timelines are reasonable and compatible with both of your schedules.
  2. Give feedback. Any feedback is better than none. Ideally, ask your mentee what type of feedback works best for them. Even if it is simply “great job, no comments,” it is important to convey what was done right. Additionally, reminding your mentee of their strengths along the way will make them feel less demoralized if you later edit their work.
  3. Take time for practice. Even if you are not prepared to pass client work onto your mentee, allow them to review the file and communicate their thoughts. This practice enables them to dive deep without risk.
  4. Provide options. Perhaps your mentee is only comfortable doing research, or they may be keen to lead their first meeting. Discuss their possible roles on a file and welcome their input.

Tips for mentees

  1. Notice. As a junior, you will likely take longer than a senior lawyer to get tasks done. Ask your mentor for as much notice as possible before a work request is due so you can learn as much as possible from the experience.
  2. Style vs. substance. Every lawyer has their own style. Make sure you understand when revisions are for style or for substance. This clarity will help you understand the law while developing your own unique “voice”.
  3. Ask questions. If you are unsure of your mentor’s expectations of you, ask for clarification.  Even if you are partway through an assignment, there is nothing wrong with a “check-in” to make sure you are heading in the right direction.
  4. Go easy on yourself. The learning process can be frustrating. Your mentor is in your corner and wants you to succeed, so try to use any feedback as a learning experience.
  5. Finding an effective mentor

The mentorship process is not one-size-fits-all, and neither is finding the right mentor. Look for lawyers with similar interests and reach out via LinkedIn or email. You can also find a mentor through organizations like the Canadian Bar Association, which has mentorship programs specific to different areas of interest.