We know that it is important for lawyers to have mentors, but there needs to be mentors available for them to learn from. With the heavy caseload that many of you senior IP attorneys have, the idea of adding a young lawyer to mentor might sound like an added weight to bear. This is not necessarily true. If approached with the right attitude and mindset, having a mentee is not a burden. In fact there is a lot that can be gained by being a mentor.
As a mentor, you are placed in a leadership position. Taking advantage of this, by ensuring that you do your best to guide your mentee, is an excellent opportunity to build valuable leadership skills. Mentoring someone will help you develop skills like communication, empathy, and teaching, all skills that are important for leaders.
Developing those leadership skills can play an important valuable role in promoting your own career.
Strengthen Professional Skills
Beyond building your skills as a leader, serving as a mentor gives you an opportunity to reexamine and explore your professional skills. One of the best ways to fully integrate knowledge is to teach it to someone else. When working with a mentee on developing their skills, you’ll be paying more attention to your own, which in turn can help you strengthen them.
You may also encounter new valuable skills as a mentor. If a mentee needs help with a problem that you have not encountered, working together to solve it can lead to you picking up new ways of approaching problems. Also, who said that the mentor is the only one who teaches?
Learn from Your Students
Whether they are coming to fresh from law school, or they are new to your firm, be humble and acknowledge that they know some things that you don’t. Listen to your mentee to try to gain a better understanding of the next generation of IP attorneys. Challenge yourself, see if something they suggest will work for you.
Broaden Your Insight
Not only can your mentee bring you insight into their generation or how other offices work, they can also give you insight into how you and your firm work. Your new mentee is still looking in from the outside, and they may see things that you have glossed over. Perhaps there is a negative aspect of the company culture that you haven’t noticed, or maybe you stubbornly insist on using old software solutions. It requires humility, and an invitation to your mentee to speak their mind, but broadening your insight can help you improve.
Increase Your Value
By being a mentor, you are not helping just yourself and the mentee, you are contributing to your entire firm. Your work as a mentor helps the new hires get up and running faster, and helps ensure that they are contributing to the company effectively. Helping to onboard new hires is of great value to your firm, and will help you in your own career.
Create New Relationships
The relationship you build with a mentee can be highly rewarding. You can not only gain a new colleague, but a friend and a supporter. Having someone who trusts and respects you, who values you as a friend, can be rewarding both in your personal life and in your career.
Receive New Meaning
We all want to build our legacy, and working as a mentor is an excellent way for us to do so. You will help develop the next generation of lawyers in your firm, future leaders of your industry, and that can give you purpose. You are helping someone, and they appreciate it. Be sure to appreciate yourself and the impact that you are having.