The real champions

The importance of having (and being) mentors and champions
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The importance of having (and being) mentors and champions
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Late last year, I met a lawyer from CIBC. “I love your magazine,” she said. “But I have a
bone to pick with you. Why aren’t in-house counsel winning your Precedent Setter Awards?” To which I responded: “Because someone has to nominate them.” A month later, Afshan Ali submitted an unbelievable nomination for her colleague, and one of this year’s winners, Carole Dagher.

Dagher is by no means your average lawyer. In spite of personal hardships, she has risen to a leadership position at one of the most respected institutions in Canada and contributes to the legal community through her volunteer work. She is a perfect Precedent Setter. And she would never have been featured in this issue without Ali.

All of our winners are unbelievable lawyers. They work in very different areas of law and
bring a wide variety of experiences and extracurriculars to their practices. But they all have one thing in common: a champion. Each one has a colleague, boss, mentor or partner that saw an exceptional young lawyer and took the time to pen a nomination. Everyone who put forward a lawyer for consideration deserves thanks and recognition.

Our nominators brought us an impressive crop of winners this year, with four out of five being women. As such, I thought I should read Sheryl Sandberg’s hugely popular book Lean In. Sandberg would be blown away by the extent to which our winning women are leaning in, sitting at the table and taking their careers by storm. But the wisdom I really took away from the book was about mentorship.

Sandberg dedicates a whole chapter to the value of true mentors and champions (mentors being those who offer advice, and champions being those who advocate). Sandberg highlights the importance of senior men helping to advance junior women, but she also talks about how a mentor can be a peer, rather than a superior. And she’s not talking about formally assigned mentors who take a mentee out for a requisite lunch twice a year (don’t get Sandberg started on these artificial mentorships) but real relationships between two people with genuine shared interests.

Whether we are men or women, we all need mentors and champions. And we all need to be mentors and champions. As we build our own careers, we need to take the time to consider the influence we can have on the success of others. We each have an opportunity to raise up the people around us. And when we do, it’s not only that individual who benefits. The profession as a whole is better for it. So look around you. Who can you raise up? What can you do to help someone else on the road to incredible success?


Hireback Watch 2013

By the time this issue lands on your desk, our ever-popular annual Hireback Watch will be in full swing. We’re predicting a rough ride for this year’s articling crew, with a few firms already reporting that they’ve hired fewer than half their students. Check lawandstyle.ca/hireback for regular updates.