Mentorships are the elusive unicorn relationships of the legal community. For prospective mentees just starting their legal career, trying to find a mentor can be a daunting task. For some prospective mentors, the word “mentorship” can have a negative connotation associated with it. The reason behind this is that some mentors may associate being a “mentor” with a huge time commitment and forced obligation to interact with someone they may not like or get along with. These forced, pre-arranged, mentorship relationships may fail because neither party is truly invested in the growth of the relationship itself. Commonly these mentorships taper off after one or two meetings over coffee or lunch, and neither person continues to put in the effort or becomes too busy to be able to put in the time.
To let you all in on the secret, the best mentorships happen organically when a relationship is formed between a mentor and mentee without that being the primary intent of either party. These relationships can be as minimal or as involved as the parties want it to be. It doesn’t have to be a burden or an obligation on either party. Instead, much like a friendship, it should be a symbiotic relationship between both parties where everyone is able to gain something from the interaction. A mentor can be someone you call or email every once in a blue moon when you have a question about a case and need some guidance. Or it can be someone you have lunch or coffee with on a regular basis to discuss your practice and career path, or someone you invite to networking events so you know a friendly face will be there.
I can personally say that all of my mentorship relationships happened accidentally. These mentors were someone that I spoke to at a networking event that I felt a professional and personal relationship could develop. I followed up with them after the initial meeting to ask them to lunch or coffee, not as a potential mentee, but as a solo attorney who was genuinely interested in learning about them and their practice. I treated them to lunch or coffee as a gesture that I valued their time. After that meeting, I sent them a personal thank you note, and continued to reach out to them to set up subsequent meetings and invited them to events I was attending. I have formed lasting relationships with each of my mentors and am proud to call them my mentors even if they may not consider themselves as such.
Attending Forum events is a great way to meet attorneys who may be more experienced than you who you can make a connection with and potentially develop a mentorship relationship. This year the Forum Executive Committee will be providing you with opportunities to both horizontally network among peers at your level, and vertically network with more experienced attorneys. Our first networking event is on Wednesday, February 22 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Tin Roof in the Gaslamp. Many of our other events this year will be smaller group events such as our community service event in March, and tennis lessons in April. We will also keep you posted on the Forum listserv about upcoming CLEs and seminars, and larger networking events with the various SDCBA sections that will provide you with access to more experienced attorneys. We hope that you will take advantage of these opportunities by attending Forum events, and that you will be inspired to volunteer to coordinate a Forum event that you want to see happen, or assist us with planning an upcoming event.
The members of the Forum executive committee are here to help you make those connections that will benefit you both personally and professionally so please take the time to come talk to us this year. We look forward to meeting you.