What Mentoring Approaches Have Proven Rewarding for Attorneys With Junior Legal Staff?

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    Lawyer Magazine

    What Mentoring Approaches Have Proven Rewarding for Attorneys With Junior Legal Staff?

    In the quest to effectively guide and nurture new talent in the legal field, we sought insights from experienced attorneys and founders. From engaging in respectful debates to fostering confidence through recognition, discover the six impactful mentoring strategies these professionals have shared.

    • Engage in Respectful Debates
    • Involve in Problem-Solving Activities
    • Make Yourself Available for Questions
    • Answer Questions with Respect and Care
    • Combine Hands-On Involvement with Feedback
    • Foster Confidence Through Recognition

    Engage in Respectful Debates

    Inviting my associate (I do not use the word 'junior') to respectfully argue out an issue and/or case with me. I have found that by doing this, I demonstrate my willingness to be open to being challenged and to learn from them. This symbiotic approach leads to a healthy, reciprocally beneficial relationship.

    Audra BayerSenior Associate, FHP Lawyers/Audra M Bayer Law Corp

    Involve in Problem-Solving Activities

    I’m not sure if you've heard, but we recently had to work remotely for a few years. Because I think the role of a mentor is largely based on an open-door policy during all the 'in-between times,' I believe that remote work is not as conducive to building a mentor-mentee relationship. I also think that this potential relationship is stifled by trying to force it with regular meetings. An approach I take that has worked the best is trying to engage young lawyers in solving all types of problems the law firm faces and getting to know how they work to resolve these problems. Whether it’s a docket-specific problem or a general problem (i.e., client communication), the better you know how your mentee works to resolve problems, the better you will be able to equip that young lawyer with the tools necessary to become great.

    Drew BiasManaging Attorney, Nachawati Law Group

    Make Yourself Available for Questions

    First, always make yourself available. Whether you're mentoring a younger associate, paralegal, or even a new legal assistant, they're going to have plenty of questions. Take the time to sit with them and answer their questions. And second, involve them in the process of whatever it is you're doing. There's no better way to learn than by doing, and by involving mentees in your work, they'll (a) get the hang of things quicker and (b) hopefully recognize your passion for your work.

    Stewart Milch
    Stewart MilchSenior Attorney, Cooper & Scully, P.C.

    Answer Questions with Respect and Care

    I try to answer every question in an accommodating and nonjudgmental fashion. I also often ask whether they have any suggestions and whether they feel overwhelmed with work. In short, by showing that I care about them as people and that I respect them, they tend to work harder not only for me but also for the firm.

    Chris CarrSenior Attorney, Murray Osorio, PLLC

    Combine Hands-On Involvement with Feedback

    One approach I've taken to mentor junior legal staff, which has been particularly rewarding, involves a combination of hands-on case involvement and structured feedback sessions. Here's how I implement it:

    I integrate junior legal staff into active cases from the beginning, allowing them to participate in client meetings, document review sessions, and court proceedings. This direct involvement provides them with a real-world understanding of the complexities and nuances of legal practice. They're not just observers; they're participants, contributing to strategy discussions and even drafting portions of briefs or motions under supervision. This hands-on experience is invaluable for their learning and development.

    After each significant case activity or milestone, I conduct one-on-one feedback sessions with the junior staff members involved. During these sessions, we review their performance, focusing on what they did well and areas for improvement. I use specific examples from their work to guide the discussion, making the feedback concrete and actionable. These sessions are also an opportunity for them to ask questions, express concerns, and discuss their career aspirations.

    I encourage junior staff to identify areas of legal practice they're particularly interested in and offer resources for deeper learning, such as relevant cases, articles, seminars, or workshops. This tailored approach helps them to carve out a niche in their interests and expertise, fostering a sense of ownership and passion for their work.

    I strive to create an environment where junior staff feel comfortable sharing their ideas and voicing their opinions. This open communication fosters a collaborative team atmosphere, where everyone, regardless of rank, can learn from each other. It also helps junior staff to build confidence in their legal reasoning and interpersonal skills.

    At the outset, I work with junior staff to set clear, achievable goals for their development. These goals are revisited regularly to assess progress and adjust as necessary. This structured approach to career development ensures that mentoring is aligned with their professional growth objectives.

    This mentoring approach has been rewarding not only for the junior staff, who gain confidence and skills, but also for me.

    Mark Sadaka
    Mark SadakaFounder, Sadaka Law

    Foster Confidence Through Recognition

    It isn't just a kind thing; it is also strategic when you acknowledge and appreciate your junior legal staff. An authentic 'thank you' leads to trust, energizes motivation, and promotes engagement. Commending individual work indicates that you have noticed their contribution, while public congratulations raise the profile and promote learning. This creates a junior's confidence in you and develops a mentee who embraces your guidance. Keep in mind that appreciated people are vested individuals who will wish to learn and grow under your guidance. By fostering their talent, you not only encourage a coworker but also ensure the growth of your team.

    Aseem Jha
    Aseem JhaFounder & Head of Customer Delivery, Legal Consulting Pro