I recently received three very thoughtful questions from young lawyers about the mentoring relationship. They were:

1. How do you find a mentor when no one has a shingle outside their door that says “Mentor available”?
2. How can you attract the attention of a mentor without damaging your image within the firm by appearing that you are needy and desperate for career help?
3. What is the best way to develop a meaningful mentoring relationship?

Even though mentors don’t have a shingle outside their door identifying themselves, associates can tell pretty quickly who are the best and most interested in their firm. Associates need to take the initiative to find the right mentor. Alternatively, associates can tell which of the senior lawyers are not well suited to be mentors. Some senior lawyers don’t often give associates recognition for high quality work or service or going the extra mile for clients, it’s probably true.  I think many of these senior lawyers did not get the positive feedback I received as a young lawyer.  Therefore, they are less inclined to give it.  In my old firm I tried to convey to senior lawyers that associates want, need and deserve feedback. My goal was to encourage my partners to be better mentors and to teach associates how to get the most out of their mentoring experiences. I learned over time that no matter how hard I tried, I was not able to change those partners. So, even though the great mentors do not have a shingle outside their door, associates need to look for them if they get to choose their mentor.
I sincerely do not believe that wanting to have a mentoring relationship is any sign of weakness. I frequently tell lawyers that Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer in the world, has a coach. I have always had mentors, even today after practicing law for more than 35 years.
The best way to develop a good mentoring relationship is to convey to your mentor that you want to become the best lawyer you can be and you are open to his coaching. In the process, also convey that you are responsible for your career success and you have taken that responsibility by knowing what you want to achieve, developing a plan with goals and taking steps to execute what you have in your plan.