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3 Attorney Mentors to Avoid

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on May 07, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We've written a lot in these pages about mentors -- how to get them, why you need them -- but we've never talked about mentors you don't want.

Having these people as mentors could hurt your career, either by giving you bad advice or by being associated with them and their bad reputation. So try to avoid these people; you can do better.

The "Win at All Costs" Attorney

As UCLA football coach Red Sanders (not Vince Lombardi) said, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." For lawyers, that's not actually true. There are other things just as important as winning. Not getting investigated by the state bar, of course, and having the respect of your colleagues -- both those on your side and on the other side.

Lawyers who engage in questionable conduct in order to win, whether it's through vexatious tactics, discovery abuse, or misquoting case law, aren't highly regarded in the field. Other lawyers look at them askance, and judges feel the need to meticulously check all of their assertions.

The Best Attorney in the Firm

Here's the problem: The best attorney in the firm is also probably the busiest attorney in the firm. Don't pick a mentor for the name recognition; pick a mentor who actually has time to talk to you about your career, your goals, and yourself.

Ideally, the busiest person in the firm would know that he's the busiest and turn you away. If he accepts you as a mentor, but has no time for you, that's another red flag. You don't want to learn from someone who has no time management skills!

The "What Do You Think?" Attorney

Whether it's out of a desire to get you to think for yourself, or because he genuinely doesn't know the answer, some attorneys will toss the question back at you, as though you're in law school again. You can get a mirror at Target for a lot less hassle than it takes to get a mentor.

A person who isn't willing to answer your questions, or provide helpful guidance from his or her own experiences, isn't worth your time. This attorney might think he's helping you, but really he's just frustrating you more. You don't know what to think because you've never done this job before. That's the point of asking someone who has!

Are there any other mentors that young lawyers should avoid? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter (@FindLawLP).

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