When approached by new lawyers just starting out in practice, we often recommend finding a mentor: A senior lawyer who knows the ropes, who has “seen it all”, and who can explain aspects of practice that the mentee would otherwise only learn via trial and error.

But learning does not always have to flow downhill, from senior lawyers to juniors. It’s the wise lawyer who understands that it’s dangerous to assume that he or she already “knows it all” and has nothing to learn from peers. Italian master Michaelangelo is reported to have, when in his eighties, waved off an acquaintance’s over-effusive praise with the words ancora imparo: “I am [still] learning”.

As lawyers grow their practices, work life gets busy. With less time (and perhaps less need) for networking, more established lawyers run the risk of working in increased isolation, answering only to themselves. This means less exposure to other lawyers’ work habits, thought processes, and approaches.

While you may feel that your work habits and routines form a solid, tried-and-true method, it’s quite possible – even considering only the evolution of technology − that someone younger or less established has figured out a better (faster… more error-proof…more graceful) way to do a thing or two. Want to avoid being overtaken by the upstarts? Look for opportunities to find out how other lawyers work.

How might you do that? You could offer yourself up as a mentor, and learn from younger lawyers on the sly. For more information, see our booklet “Managing a Mentoring Relationship”, which describes suggested “rules of engagement” for this kind of relationship, and includes the guidelines under which LAWPRO will waive surcharges on claims made against lawyers acting as mentors.

You might also consider collaborating with colleagues on a research project, or in the creation of CPD materials; or joining a bar association section of interest to you. Or, the next time you attend a CPD program, you could choose to sit down next to a lawyer you’ve never met. There’s no better way to gain a new perspective on your work.