"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." – Winston Churchill
Why don't more experienced lawyers volunteer to mentor young attorneys? The San Joaquin County Bar Association has an excellent program, as does the Consuelo M. Callahan American Inn of Court. You don't need a formal organization if the mentor and protégé have found one another. But those organizations can help you find people willing to mentor in your particular field of practice and find new lawyers looking for a guiding hand.
Anyone who spends time in court watching a newbie floundering knows that mentor/protégé relationships are needed. We, of a certain age, see those new lawyers. There are two kinds. Those who ask questions instead of pretending to have answers. They seek out and find mentors. And we see those that need them.
I mentor for a lot of reasons. I like giving to those who need it and (usually) appreciate it. I like giving back to the legal profession that has given me so much. I like paying forward the kindness, consideration and guidance that my mentors gave to me. I like growing young minds. I like elevating the practice of law in our fair part of the world.
Mentoring is not hard. If you have been practicing for a while, you know a lot. You can impart a lot. You have experience and perspective that only time, practice, and your own mentor can give. You have earned that wisdom through practice and now you know it. You don't need lesson plans or curricula. Mentoring is sharing what you know.
Mentoring does not take a lot of time. The best mentors nudge. You don't have to write the brief or do the research. You don't have to spend the hours that the task at hand requires. But you can help spot issues. You can tell your protégé what has worked for you in the past. You can just listen. "Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon." —E.M. Forster.
With my protégés, I have had a lunch, taken a call, responded to an email, or chatted at court. None of which took very much of my time at all. They watch me in court. Or I tell them about a case that I have coming up.
Mentoring builds relationships. I am happy to know these young people. They are interesting. They have stories. They are going places. They are raising families or they have raised families. They were athletes, actors, or lawyers in different fields. They have other careers. They have families with stories. They have the excitement and vigor of the young. And they help me get my electronics working. I now know their strengths and their preferences and know to whom to refer cases.
I am happy to know these young people. They are interesting. They have stories. They are going places. They have the excitement and vigor of the young. And they help me get my electronics working.
Mentoring is learning. Every lawyer that has taught a seminar or a law school class knows this: when you teach, you learn the subject. It helps you organize your thoughts, and to come to a deeper understanding of the subject. To teach is to learn twice over.
Mentoring is gratifying. It makes me feel good to pass on knowledge as it was passed on to me. It is rewarding to see the lights go on. It is exciting to teach what I am excited about. In my field, helping families move forward the right way is a passion. When I help other people to learn those skills, the ripples go outward. I like shaping young lawyers to want to do the right thing. It is my hope that they do it better than I have and that their protégés do better still.
Mentoring is learning. Every lawyer that has taught a seminar or a law school class knows this: when you teach, you learn the subject.
Mentoring can help cure an ailing profession. Americans used to look up to the greats in our profession. New lawyers hoped to follow in their footsteps. Too many have turned zealous representation into cover for savagery and "winner take all positioning" or "gotcha" maneuvering. Bargaining is based on leverage rather than interests. We have poisoned our own well. It is no wonder that "lawyer jokes" have so much traction. We are professionals. I want my protégés to be professionals as well as business people. I want to teach that civility and advocacy can go hand in hand. I want more of us to be held in esteem and to be shining lights for the community to see.
I want someone to turn down that schmaltzy music.