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What Mentors Can Learn From Their Mentees

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

While mentors are usually the ones doling out advice to the newbies, mentors can actually learn a thing or two from their mentees.

Although traditionally seen as a one-way learning experience, a mentor-mentee relationship might actually be mutually beneficial, according to the ABA Journal.

So what can your mentee teach you?

Learning From Your Mentee

Career coach Cordell Parvin observed a mentoring relationship between a partner and an associate at a Canadian law firm. Based on the mentee's experience, there are a couple things partners can learn from their mentee relationships.

First is giving props when props are due. One thing the mentee experienced was that her mentor would acknowledge her contribution to the firm's success. While the partner or supervising attorney usually gets all the glory when the client is a victor, staff members and associates usually play a key supporting role. So if your mentee's enthusiasm and work ethic helped you win a case, let me know that you appreciate their help.

Mentors should also make time to build work relationships. Managing your case load can result in tunnel vision and take away from opportunities to build relationships with your mentee or staff. Mentees usually clear their schedules for some quality time with their mentor. As a mentor, you should adopt a similar mindset. Making time to connect on a more personal level builds trust and allows you to have a better understanding of their skill set. Once you get to know your mentee better, you'll be able to assign them work that'll plays to their strengths, which will benefit the firm.

Mentoring Tips

If you're currently mentoring an associate or a law clerk, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Give them a variety of assignments. Sure, taking depositions may be your bread-and-butter, but let the newbies get a taste of the action. Assigning a variety of tasks will give mentees a better understanding of the firm's business and allow you to give them more responsibility in the future.
  • Get out of the office. Mentees may be employed to help with your firm's workload, but mentoring also includes giving them life and career advice. Meeting outside the office for lunch or happy hour will give you both an opportunity to discuss more personal topics in a laid-back setting.
  • Help your mentee network. It's unlikely that your mentee will stay at your firm for the duration of his or her career, so introduce them to some of your contacts in a field of interest. Giving them contacts to build their network is a great way to pay-it-forward and earn you some serious legal karma.

Having a good relationship with your mentee can benefit you in the future. Who knows? Maybe you'll be asking them for advice one day.

Have more mentoring tips? Share with us on Twitter.

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