Don’t you think you need a MENTOR? Does law school really prepare lawyers for law practice? So you finally got to pass the almighty bar final, and got called to bar; then what happens next? The truth is that law school only teaches the substantive law and not skills-based.; and these are basically two different things.
Interestingly, for you to succeed as a lawyer is actually tied to at least, a modest knowledge of both substantive and procedural law. While the knowledge of the law is impacted to us during our sojourn in school, the knowledge on the legal practice is impacted either through the school of hard knocks or through mentors.
Unfortunately, most young lawyers, either consciously or unconsciously, opt to learn the legal practice from the school of hard knocks. This is typical of most new wigs that jump into law practice immediately after law school, either as solo practitioners or as associates in existing law firms. Either way, they go through the early stages of their law practice trying to figure out things for themselves.
The need to figure out things for themselves arises as a result of their realization that it is not just enough to know only the law, but that there are still much more to the practice of law than just knowing the law. They figure out that they have to learn things like- how to bring in clients, how to handle such clients, how to prepare their case, how to bill clients and so much more that have to be in place in other for one to have a successful practice. By the time these lawyers figure out these things on their own, they would have lost years, amidst lots of mistakes that could have been avoided.
On the other hand, there are few others who also figured out that they don’t have to go through the route of figuring out things for themselves. They are the ones who make the decision to have mentors, people who have gone down the road before them, and allow such people to guide and direct them as they chart their way through the murky waters of law practice. I personally believe that the latter group always turn out better lawyers than the former.
For the purpose of this post, we can define mentoring as a professional relationship in which an experienced person guides another in developing specific skills, wisdom expertise and knowledge that will enhance another’s professional and personal growth. Mentors are positive people who will help you find the lessons in your experience and use them to move forward.
Therefore, I have decided to give every young lawyer reasons they should have a mentor as they navigate their way in this legal business called law practice.
1. Exposure to Wealth of Experience: There are lots of things that you don’t know as a young lawyer about law practice that mentors already know as a result of their vast experience which they have accumulated over the years. I’ve come to discover that there are particular ways to do things in this profession and result is guaranteed. These mentors have gone down the road before you, and have tested the waters. They know what works and what doesn’t work. They know how to go about virtually every aspect of law practice. They have failed and learned from their mistakes. Having such people as mentors will save you from having to make the same mistakes they made. They will save you time and energy, and from frustration. Having such people around you will make life easier for you as a young lawyer.
2. Offers Support and protection: as a young lawyer you need a mentor to Coach you to develop goals and improve your performance , help you Strategize about how to promote yourself and your goals. Mentors will always be available to offer impartial Advise about problem situations . He will encourage you to be persistent and to set realistic goals. Mentors Help mentees to find new and challenging opportunities within the profession while protecting them from adverse forces and “dead-ends”
3. Crisis Management : Nobody prays to get into trouble, but we all know that every once in a while we might get into one. Sometimes we bring it upon ourselves by our own mistakes, while other times, we are dragged into it by others. As a young lawyer, given your relative naivety in the field, you might find yourself confronting some crisis either in your working place, with clients, judges or even with your colleagues. In such situations, mentors are there to help you manage and get through such crisis. They use their wealth of experience to guide you on how best to handle such issues, which ordinarily, left on your own, you might complicate issues.
rough this field of legal practice.
4. Provides Guidance : Mentors are well positioned to guide you in making decisions as to what career path to follow. A lot of young lawyers have wasted a lot of time and energy following a wrong career path that doesn’t match up with their strength, and by the time they figure this out, they are already running out of time. Having a mentor will help you to see through the different career paths open to you as a young lawyer. These mentors, by virtue of their experience in the profession know what qualities it takes to succeed in a particular career path.
5. Contacts: It is not unlikely for some mentors who are really interested in your professional development to put you in touch with their own contacts, which can only help expand your network and your influence. They can give you professional opportunities, and a chance to advance in your career. Some mentors love it when their mentees are making progress and headway in the profession, and so they don’t mind exposing their mentees to opportunities that will be of great help to them. These are opportunities that young lawyers on their own might not be able to access, but through their relationship with their mentors, they gain access to such opportunities.
6. Emotional Support: law practice is very challenging at the early years of practice. During this period, young lawyers are confronted with the harsh reality of what real practice entails, which most often is different from what they had envisaged it to be. Some young lawyers believe that given the number of years it took them to become lawyers and the hours of studies they’ve put in and lots of sacrifices they had to make; that once they become lawyers, they are immediately set on the path of a better life. In reality, it is not always the case, so some lawyers feel disappointed, disillusioned and frustrated when they realise this. In such situations, mentors are there to encourage and motivate such lawyers. They sometimes do this by sharing their own experiences and how they got over their challenges. In such stories many young lawyers have found encouragement and that extra fuel to keep on pushing till they get their breakthrough. Mentors are there to give a listening ear and that customary nodding of the head that signifies that they understand what you are going through because they’ve been there. Motivation, encouragement, support and inspiration will they bring to bear on you during those challenging moments. As a young lawyer, you need those ingredients in the budding years of your practice as a young lawyer.
I encourage every lawyer to begin that search for mentors that will help you in this journey as there are so many benefits young lawyers stand to gain for having mentors.
Unini Chioma k, Esq.