Passing law school and practicing law are distinct from each other. A law school teaches you to understand and apply the law. Practicing law requires far more skill than just knowledge. It involves court hearings, client meetings, and depositions.
In the legal profession, the role a mentor plays is of vital importance. Having said this, choosing a mentor is not easy.
A mentor is not a teacher. A teacher imparts knowledge and answers your questions. Whereas; the mentor questions your answers.
One cannot become a great lawyer just by reading up on the experiences of another great lawyer. You may need someone who holds your hand as you make mistakes; someone who pushes you to be the best you can be; someone who challenges you.
“An ideal mentor prepares you to become greater than he is.”
Knowledge by itself is irrelevant to the mentor. His focus is on your approach.
For example, a car driving teacher teaches you the mechanics vis a vis speed, breaks, etc. The mentor focuses on your driving. The vehicle is irrelevant to him.
One cannot find a mentor by looking for him. You will find him in the process of looking for a higher level of perfection in your legal profession.
As a young lawyer, you will be working with a senior lawyer. But that does not mean you have found your mentor. To find a mentor, you need to become a mentee. Are you respectful, open-minded, flexible, and eager to learn? Are you willing to change and adapt to challenges?
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg quotes in her book Lean In:
“If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor, it is obvious. The question becomes a statement. Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works.”
Fundamentals of Mentorship
- Humility and Willingness to Learn
Understand that whatever you know is not enough for everything. The mentor will fill the gap of what you do not know. Humility is a virtue that allows one to be open to new ways of thinking.
- RepetitionThere is no substitute for hard work. Repetition builds mastery of your profession. The most important lessons are learned not by understanding them but by repeating them. A mentor knows what you need to repeat.
- Shun the EgoEgo is not the way. Ego comes in the way.
Remember that once ego walks in, the mentor walks out. Through the application of knowledge with which the wisdom grows, you can dismantle your ego. By humbling yourself to your mentor and practicing law, you can shun the ego.
- Focus on the efforts. Not the results.Working with a mentor with an expectation of the desired result does not bear fruit. A mentor-mentee relationship thrives on trust and respect. Master your craft through the mindset shared by your mentor.
A mentor-mentee relationship is mutual. One seeks the other for growth. The person that you become in the process of working with a mentor is your legacy. And you become a mentor to another aspiring lawyer.