January is National Mentoring Month. At the Commission on Professionalism, we would like to congratulate the attorneys and legal organizations that have already made mentoring a priority by participating in our lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program or programs elsewhere.
2022 was an exciting year for mentoring at the Commission. As of December 2022, 111 organizations across Illinois are implementing the Commission’s mentoring program, including 50 law firms, 22 bar associations, 15 professional organizations, 11 government offices, 9 law schools, two court districts, and one corporation. And participants have come from 13 states and 84 cities.
If you are not already part of a legal mentoring program, learn how to join our program and earn CLE credit by clicking here.
As you plan for the upcoming year, a mentor or mentee can be a beneficial goal-setting partner. You may help each other identify goals not previously considered and keep each other accountable.
To begin, we encourage lawyers to focus on these three areas. These will reignite your existing mentoring relationship or help you to kick off a new one by prioritizing current challenges and opportunities in the profession in 2023.
1. Revisit How You Show Up in a Hybrid Workplace
Remote work remains popular for legal professionals. In fact, according to the 2022 ABA report “Practicing Law in the Pandemic and Moving Forward,” 70% of respondents said they spent at least one-quarter of the week working from home over the past year.
Almost three years into the pandemic, most people have adjusted to hybrid workplaces—and some have probably gotten a little too comfortable.
It is a good practice for mentors and mentees to revisit how to conduct themselves professionally in hybrid work settings and virtual courtrooms, ways in which they can adapt to new technology, and strategies for make meaningful connections remotely and in person.
Respondents to the ABA report said that relationship-building remains a concern in a remote or hybrid work environment.
- 42% of lawyers reported an increase in feelings of social isolation.
- 49% reported said the quality of their relationships with their coworkers decreased (men were more likely to report this than women).
- 61% reported a decrease in professional networking.
Because many of us still may be working from home, we must be more intentional about building relationships and social capital in our organizations with the technology at hand. That is where mentoring can come in.
Participants in our lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program have the flexibility of meeting virtually or in person. Read tips on how to engage with your mentor or mentee virtually from our Chief Counsel Mark Palmer here.
2. Continue Challenging Conversations about Diversity
The number of female attorneys and those from underrepresented ethnic and racial communities is growing, especially among law students and associates, according to the ABA’s 2022 Profile of the Legal Profession.
However, diverse groups like these from historically underrepresented communities continue to face incivility from their peers and may lack a sense of belonging in their workplace.
Significant percentages of women, people of color, LGBTQ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities said that they feel stress at work related to their identities, that they feel they can’t be their authentic selves at work, and that they are perceived as less competent than their peers, according to the ABA report “Practicing Law in the Pandemic and Moving Forward.”
Our Survey on Professionalism found that there were significant increases in incivility tied to race, age, and sex from 2014 to 2021. For example, when it comes to those who reported that they had experienced incivility, the number who had been the target of sexist comments increased from 2.8% in 2014 to 16.6% in 2021.
Moreover, 62% of 2021 respondents said incivility discourages diversity in the profession, up from 51% in 2014.
Encouraging mentor and mentee pairs to discuss diversity in their workplaces, to seek out and explore diverse perspectives, and to identify ways to support colleagues from diverse groups can contribute to DEI and belonging in workplaces, as well as improve attorneys’ professionalism.
For additional recommendations, check out the Commission’s Underrepresented Attorneys Mentoring Toolkit. The toolkit provides a structured mentoring curriculum for individuals and organizations that aspire to develop the careers of attorneys from communities that are traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession.
3. Make Professional Development a Priority
The National Legal Mentoring Consortium’s virtual conference, which was held in fall 2022, emphasized the importance of mentoring as an avenue to professional development.
During the conference, speakers shared ways to support lawyers’ professional identity and development through mentoring, sponsorship, competency models, and other skill-building platforms. The goal is to advance the ever-evolving skills that lawyers need to succeed in today’s legal environment.
Pick a few sessions or watch the full conference with your mentor or mentee here.
Another way to make professional development a priority is by attending the Commission’s annual The Future Is Now: Legal Services conference, which will explore innovative ways attorneys are delivering services to consumers in an increasingly crowded market.
SAVE THE DATE! The conference will be held virtually on Thursday, April 20, 2023. We will be opening registration and announcing our speakers in early 2023. CLE is available. Sign up here to stay updated.
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