Mentoring has literally changed my life. As a young woman in the law, I needed professional guidance. Sometimes, I didn’t even know what questions to ask. I was so fortunate to start my legal career working for John Rossi and Jim Cox. They were managing partners who ran a firm representing injured railroad employees. By watching them work on cases and interact professionally with clients and opposing counsel, I learned that you can be a powerful litigant while maintaining a sense of grace and respect. It’s also helpful to have mentors who are not associated with your office. That’s one reason I became active in the Denver Bar Association and the Colorado Women’s Bar Association. Meeting people in the bar associations opened new opportunities for me to develop professionally and to harness my leadership potential.
My bar association participation started with the desire to do public service. Before long, I was moving into board of directors/trustees positions and making some of my best lifelong friends. As I reflect on the various leadership positions I’ve held, I am reminded that all of them started with someone encouraging me to participate.
At this point, I should probably mention the inevitable — networking. Many people are put off by the term “networking.” The negative connotations associated with networking probably relate to the idea that networking communications are forced and unauthentic. The reality is that if you join groups that you are interested in and passionate about, you will have genuine experiences and cultivate genuine friendships. The friends I’ve made through my bar association participation have also advocated for me professionally, resulting in life-changing career moves.
Over time, you transform from mentee to mentor. While some of us embrace the mentor role more readily than others, I’d like to encourage all of you to let your inner mentor shine. There are a lot of ways to mentor. The Denver Bar Association works closely with the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP). CAMP matches new attorneys with more experienced attorneys and has a pre-set one-year curriculum. For more information and to sign up, visit coloradomentoring.org.
There are lots of other less formal mentoring opportunities too.Here are a few suggestions:
- Hire interns from law schools.
- Invite young lawyers to participate in work-related events with you (e.g., depositions, court hearings, trials, settlement negotiations, etc.).
- Invite young lawyers to Denver Bar Association events with you (e.g., the Barristers Benefit Ball, DBA Awards, Barristers After Hours, etc.).
- Partner with young lawyers on pro bono projects.
- Encourage young lawyers to participate in professional organizations that are important to you.
- Ask young lawyers how you can help them.
Making friends + helping others = mentoring. Have fun. Make a difference.
Originally published in The Docket.