There are times when I can help you out,
And times when you must fall.
There are times when you must live in doubt
And I can’t help at all.
With thanks to Jerry Garcia and Co. (not to mention the management and partners of this firm) here is my prescription for constructing a mentorship program that resolves the tension in these lyrics and is “Built to Last”. By way of opening, if you google “mentorship program”, you get some 3,700,000 hits in .53 of a second. I have not read any of them. I know what I think, and I know what we have done and will continue doing with and for the group of lawyers I have the privilege of working with.
In creating a mentorship program that has legs, we have appointed a director with a mandate which, working alongside firm leaders, expressly includes building and implementing a continuing program for the benefit of our participating lawyers. This program is built to be consistently and evenly applied. The advantage of such an approach is that it recognizes differences between wants and needs, aspirations and expectations among our lawyers, and ensures that no matter how busy their principals are, each mentee enjoys the same commitment and support that each of their colleagues enjoys. At the same time of course, each of the lawyers involved also has access to counselling from a senior who is a member of their individual service (practice) group (which the director is not). Finally, the program relieves senior lawyers from the weight of wanting to do more, as do we all, but (given the demands of practice), being squeezed into doing less.
Each of the mentees involved has a direct and confidential relationship with the director. This relationship includes a formal “strat” plan specifically designed around each. These individual growth plans start with a short term component but the essence of each is longer term development. They are designed to serve the following fundamental purposes:
- They help younger lawyers recognize their strengths and weaknesses, an element of self-awareness essential to visualizing longer term goals;
- They provide younger lawyers with the requisite tools as well as the time and space to use them;
- They are complemented by programs designed to increase subject-matter expertise as well as practical knowledge and training (referred to briefly below);
- They attest to the firm’s interest in its newer calls, creating a sense of inclusion and confidence; and
- When the time is right, they assist in bringing each lawyer into the career tent, where the rules of the game, what it takes to get from here to there, are laid out.
The director works with the leaders of each service group and other responsible professionals to ensure firstly a common understanding of what each member requires to succeed, and secondly in the event that modification or even a degree of re-tooling should be required, the need is both ascertained and responded to in an equitable, effective and timely fashion.
The director as well as others is involved in the creation and application of in-house training programs. These training programs are supplemented by a sister program that finds and brings in expert guests from academia, the bench and bar, and government, as well as other professionals representing the interest and aspirations of our lawyers, to present on topics of interest, including most significantly, how our guests came to be where and who they are.
All these trials soon be past
Look for something built to last.