Over the past year, I have 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. In the current economy, how can you attract the attention of a mentor without appearing to be needy and desperate for career help?
  3. What is the best way to develop a meaningful mentoring relationship?

If you are a senior lawyer in your firm, how would you answer these questions?

Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. 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. If you have any say in who will be your mentor, you should take the initiative to find the right mentor. You can also determine which of the senior lawyers are not well suited to be mentors. That word travels pretty fast in law firms.
  2. I do not believe that wanting to have a mentoring relationship is any sign of weakness. To the contrary, I believe it shows you are taking responsibility for your career and success. Even though I do not recall using the word: “mentor,”  I always had mentors during my long career practicing law.
  3. 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 become and you are open to his or her coaching. You can also make a good impression if you figure out what you want to achieve, develop a plan with goals and take steps to execute what you have in your plan.