When You Find Yourself Needing A Mentor, It’s Too Late
The other day I received a call from a lawyer I didn’t know seeking help regarding a legal issue I had no expertise in. He was in court, had stepped out for a bit, and called me wanting emergency legal advice on an issue he was going to speak to in 5 minutes. Unfortunately, despite the urgency in his voice, I was powerless to help.
What he needed was a mentor, someone who could help guide him in his practice. A mentor would also help him with his risk management skills.
Mentors come in different shapes and sizes. They can be friends, colleagues, teachers or complete strangers. As we set out in our mentoring booklet, the mentoring relationship can be “formal,” with set roles, responsibilities and expectations, such as those found in the associate mentoring programs of larger law firms. More often than not, the relationship is informal, with the mentor acting as a sounding board for the less experienced practitioner. Mentors typically play four complementary, overlapping roles:
- Coach – show how to carry out a task or activity;
- Facilitator – create opportunities for learners to use newly acquired skills;
- Counsellor – help mentees explore the consequences of potential decisions; and
- Networker – refer mentees to others when their own experience is insufficient.
For sole practitioners and young lawyers, finding a mentor will require some legwork. Many senior lawyers enjoy hearing from younger calls. It’s an ego boost to them and a way to give back to the profession.
The Law Society of Upper Canada has a formal mentoring program, as does the Ontario Bar Association and most diversity associations such as those in the Roundtable of Diversity Associations (RODA) or Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers. Find the program that works for you.
Above and beyond helping your practice and your working life, a mentor can help reduce claims. To this end, LAWPRO encourages mentor-mentee relationships by waiving any deductible and claims levy surcharge on any claim that may be made against a lawyer mentor arising out of a mentoring relationship, provided that:
- the mentor and mentee agreed to enter into a formal mentoring relationship, as evidenced by a written document of some kind;
- the mentor had no contact with the mentee’s client that would create a solicitor/client relationship; and
- the mentee understood that she/he was responsible for individually and independently satisfying her/himself of the soundness of any suggestions, recommendations or advice-like comments made by the mentor.
Lawyering is harder as a lone wolf. Keep your practice strong by finding a mentor to support you.