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Mentoring: the way forward

19 August 13

The Society is launching a career mentoring scheme - what is involved, and what can solicitors get out of being a mentor?

by Heather McKendrick

What is mentoring?

The original “Mentor” was a wise and trusted counsellor or adviser from Greek mythology, but mentoring is a term now used to describe a developmental relationship between colleagues, one of whom will (normally) be a more experienced practitioner. Mentoring relationships facilitate personal and professional development through support, challenge and review. The role of mentors can involve listening to concerns and identifying problems and helping guide someone with decisions in relation to their career.

Background

This is a pilot initiative developed by the Law Society of Scotland to encourage networking and mentoring for the legal profession (students, trainees and solicitors). The purpose of the pilot is to assess whether a mentoring scheme of this kind could be developed further and to evaluate whether the scheme has been successful and beneficial. The aim of the scheme is to support students, trainees and solicitors in managing and developing their careers.
Scheme objectives are to:

  • share knowledge and expertise;
  • support mentees with goal setting and career management;
  • provide information about different options and career paths;
  • support mentees in taking responsibility for their own skills and career development.

We are looking for mentors!

Mentors who would like to take part in the scheme should be:

  • solicitors from all areas of practice, and all levels, including in-house solicitors;
  • actively interested in continuing professional development;
  • enthusiastic about encouraging new lawyers and helping them achieve their career goals;
  • able to commit around one hour per month to the mentoring scheme.

How will it work?

Our aim is to “match” mentors and mentees depending on the requirements and experiences of the parties. One mentor will be matched with one mentee. All mentors are required to attend a training session before they begin the process. The training will take place in Edinburgh during October.

What will you get out of it?

As mentors, there are many benefits to be gained. These include:

  • the opportunity to share knowledge and expertise, and support new lawyers;
  • enhancement of coaching, leadership and management skills;
  • consideration of your own career development;
  • a way to “give back” to the legal profession.

Want to find out more?

If you would like to find out more about what’s involved, please email mentoring@lawscot.org.uk

                                                     

The mentor

Yvonne Brady, partner, HBJ Gateley

Having benefited from the mentoring process throughout my career, I find the mentoring experience hugely valuable – lending perspective and valuable insight at key points in my career. To be a good mentor you have to listen more than talk. The purpose of mentoring is not to solve problems but to assist the mentee to find the solution.

The opportunity to engage with a mentee in their development and, through a process of discussion around the issues, assist them in achieving their objectives and ambitions is enormously satisfying. I feel I am helping to retain and develop talent in the profession by engaging in the process.

Time involved is two hours per meeting, giving both mentor and mentee sufficient time to explore issues which they need to in appropriate depth. Meetings take place every four to six weeks (frequency and time are a matter for agreement between the mentor and mentee). No matter how busy, it is always possible to find that two hours and, on a personal level, I look forward to every mentoring session and know that I will leave it re-enthused.

The most challenging aspect is accepting both that it is not my job to solve issues for my mentee, but that it is my job to help the mentee achieve clarity around their objectives for the mentee to find a way to achieve them.

I would recommend all solicitors are mentored and offer their own skills to mentor another. By that process both mentor and mentee continue to develop their careers. I have gained as much from the mentees as they may have gained from me in the course of our relationships.

A recent example involves a talented lawyer returning to his corporate job at a large organisation after a period of enforced absence (illness). In the nine months he was off, his role had been absorbed by others. He felt unsettled and concerned at the lack of clarity around his position in the organisation. Over a series of discussions he identified and regained confidence in his skills, used his excellent organisational ability to identify areas he could improve efficiency in his team, and carved out a new and essential role for himself. Six months later he was not only settled in this new role but could see a clear path to career advancement in his firm.

The mentee

Rosalind McInnes, principal solicitor, BBC

I have been receiving mentoring for nearly 10 years and have found it an extraordinarily powerful experience. I became involved in being a mentee as it was suggested by my line manager at the time. I would say the principal benefits are fourfold: role modelling; detached support; expertise in skills for which solicitors are poorly equipped; and space for reflection.

There are senior managers and senior partners who will help solicitors develop their own careers rather than wanting a clone or a convenience, but an optimal blend of interest and disinterest won’t be there for most trainees or NQs. I think that solicitors should consider being mentored because it provides a space to reflect regularly on career and personal development, strategy and performance.

The final, and perhaps most important, function of mentoring is its provision of a confidential, structured place to reflect on longer term matters of professional self-development. In principle, well educated and intelligent solicitors should know at least where they want their careers to go and ultimately to work out how to get there. Mentoring is no guarantee of taking the right steps, but it requires the participant to ask themselves fairly regularly what it is that they actually want from their job. The most rewarding thing about it is having a supportive but essentially detached sounding board who can spark insights and offer an experienced political perspective.

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