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5 Tips on Being a Mentor to Summer Associates

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

Mentoring a summer associate? This time is especially crucial, with summer just beginning. Soon, if it hasn't happened already, many firms will be welcoming a batch of new summer associates into their office.

Mentoring is a partnership that exists in nearly all personal and professional arenas. Of course the legal world is not exempt from this. In fact, mentoring at a law firm is one of the most important aspects of a law student's training.

Now's the time to brush up on your mentoring skills to ensure that you'll provide your mentee with the best experience possible. Here are 5 tips to consider when being a mentor to a summer associate:

1. Don't assume they're familiar with legal documents. It's likely that you'll be giving your newbie an assignment that you yourself have taken on more times than you can count. So, it's easy to forget that they're far more clueless. Remember that law school teaches the substantive areas of the law, and less so much on the procedural documents that come with it in a day-to-day practice. Thus, a brief overview, at the very least, of what an interrogatory is or what "affidavit" means can never hurt.

2. Focus on the culture of the firm, as well. Just like any other job in the world, someone starting out needs to adjust both to the work done and the environment that it's done in. Make sure you give your little summer mentee the laydown of the office -- a tour, general advice about breaks, meals, nitpicky habits that a partner might have about post-its being tacked onto monitors, and so forth.

3. Give them a variety of experiences. It's easy to treat the new summer associate as someone to help lighten your load. Instead, try to remember that your dual role as supervising attorney and a mentor requires that you ensure they're given a well-rounded experience. Conducting a deposition, or will you be in court in the morning? Let your mentee sit in on it with you.

4. Help them network. What did you, and everyone else, and your mentee learn in law school? Network, network, network! You as seasoned, trustworthy attorney that many others in the field are already familiar with can be that helpful link. It's all about paying it forward.

5. Be attentive and open-minded. While you may have had a particular experience as a summer associate, remember that your summer may be having a different one. Regardless, it can all be a little daunting and scary, especially for a 1L. Always encourage your mentee to communicate pertinent issues to you and remind them that this is the beginning, and questions are not just acceptable, but necessary and welcome.

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