two way sign1. Law firms create mentoring programs to retain associates not develop them.

Law firms continue to try and keep the associates they have spend money and time training.  One of the associate programs that is ever popular is the mentor program.

Law firms pair up people and tell them to become friends and spend personal time together.  They tell new associates who to ask for help.

No one wants to be told who to go to for guidance, when and why.  A relationship between a mentor and mentee can’t be assigned, forced or regulated. These programs do not work.

Law firms should put their money and resources into solid, practical training and opportunities to network within their firms.  Senior associates and partners would make a greater impact and enjoy it more if they talked to a group of young attorneys over lunch about what they are doing in their cases, how they get clients, how they manage their case load, how they delegate, how they build loyalty with staff or any number of things they do well.

Everyone is good at different things. Firm management should target senior attorneys who do particular things well and organize them to talk to newer associates. Administrative staff should also be tapped to discuss the workings of the firm and how to get things done.

2.  Associates expect a mentor.

Associates believe they should have the time of a senior associate or partner on a regular and ongoing basis and this should be managed and funded by the firm.

We each have a responsibility for our own career.  A mentor is a wonderful gift. This is a person who has been where you are, who does not judge and who is willing to spend time and energy to work toward your success.

It is an individual’s responsibility to find and nurture a relationship with someone they respect and desire to learn from. New associates should look for people who they want to emulate and work toward developing a relationship with him or her. These people may be in their firm or may be someone they meet at outside the firm. A new associate should ask a person they respect to lunch or to a cup of coffee, tell him or her what they respect and ask how the skill or trait was developed. AND pick up the check.

Firm social events should not be a group of the same attorneys and staff in a conference room with wine and cheese or the monthly birthday cake.

Events that include an activity or talk are more conducive to building relationships. The event should be easy and fun or educational, leading people to interact with others they don’t normally. Think what an impact having the most senior partner talk about his or her first win or biggest mistake. Partners and senior managers should be required to come and participate.

Mentor/mentee relationships develop over time. They should not be forced and should not be an expectation.


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