It’s hard to be a good mentor, so take the job seriously // Career Counsel

You might be a terrific lawyer. That doesn’t mean you’re a great at mentorship

By Daniel Waldman

On Tuesday December 4th, 2018


In my legal career, which has lasted nearly a decade, I’ve spent plenty of time on the networking circuit. And I’ve noticed a worrying trend: networking meetings usually fall flat. When I meet senior lawyers to discuss my career, they often make no effort to seriously engage in the conversation. Or worse, they act as if I should be thankful just to be in their presence.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Over the past few years, legal newbies have started to ask me out to coffee or lunch. Based on those experiences, I’ve compiled a list of tips that will help make your next networking meetings more fruitful.

CareerCounsel-AlinaSkyson-web1. Leave your ego at the office. You might be an elite lawyer, sitting atop your practice group with impressive clients in your pocket. But those accomplishments, on their own, do not make you a great mentor. Your resumé is not a substitute for meaningful career advice.

2. Don’t treat every networking meeting like it’s a favour. When junior lawyers reach out to you for advice, it’s their responsibility to come prepared. But, at the same time, if you accept the invitation, you have an obligation to ensure that your mentee benefits from the meeting. So be helpful! Ask questions, be friendly, get to know the person and offer sincere advice.

3. Be positive. When I was looking for a job in litigation, I met with someone who told me that he would be shocked — yes, “shocked” — if I landed a job in that practice area. Other people reminded me that the market for litigators was “terrible.” This incessant pessimism was not helpful. Guide people in the right direction. Don’t tell them what they’ll never be able to accomplish.

4. Return the thank-you note. If you take time to meet with someone, you should expect a follow-up note to thank you for your time. Take a minute to write a brief response saying that you were also happy to meet with them as well. If you don’t write back, they may think that you regret meeting with them in the first place.

Daniel_Waldman-headshotDaniel Waldman is an associate in the litigation group at Daoust Vukovich LLP. His practice focuses on real estate and debt-collection matters.



This story is from our Winter 2018 Issue.

Illustration by Alina Skyson