Mentoring relationships play a crucial role in the professional development of lawyers, providing guidance, support, and substantive learning for the next generation. Yet, mentors and mentees alike struggle to prioritize such professional development in today’s fast-paced legal profession. Enter generative artificial intelligence (genAI), a groundbreaking tool that has the potential to transform mentoring relationships for lawyers and professionals across various industries.
We’ve already seen how genAI can help lawyers save time and increase productivity such as summarizing materials and drafting content. Now, let’s consider how genAI can be a powerful ally to enhance mentoring dynamics, resulting in more effective, efficient, and fulfilling experiences for both mentors and mentees.
Personalized learning experiences
One advantage of utilizing genAI in mentoring is its ability to craft tailored learning experiences unique to the needs of each mentee. Lawyers face an array of challenges, influenced by their specific practice areas, career stages, and personal ambitions.
GenAI can become another professional development tool to foster learning targeted to a mentee’s background, skills, and goals, and then remain part of their educational journey similar to having another participant engaged in the mentoring relationship.
For example, mentoring pairs may want to discuss the release of an impactful legal opinion in their practice area. While it would be prudent to review and analyze the case opinion in preparation for the meeting, we know that isn’t always realistic. So, they can also use genAI to assist in summarizing the case and even outlining the important takeaways they wish to cover.
Here’s a look at how to use genAI when preparing for a mentoring meeting. (Please note, the example below is meant to be in the same, continuous chat on a genAI platform.)
- Input the initial prompt: “Summarize the following legal opinion into an executive summary and include key bullet points outlining all issues, analysis, and conclusions: People v. Lozano, 2023 IL 128609.” [If genAI cannot search by case citation, other options might be available for input such as uploading a PDF file or referring to the opinion via a pasted link.]
- Enter a follow-up prompt: “Using the legal analysis from the case above, what are the elements of Terry v. Ohio that should apply to whether a stop of a fleeing suspect is legally justified?”
- Finish with a planning prompt: “I am planning a one-on-one mentoring meeting to discuss this case and these topics in detail. Draft a meeting agenda for a mentoring pair to maximize the learning experience.”
GenAI not only supplements the discussion’s content but also provides tips and ideas to help streamline mentoring meetings and maximize a mentor and mentee’s time together.
For example, when I entered the prompts above into Google’s genAI tool Bard, it provided these great reminders for maximizing the learning experience during the meeting:
- Encourage your mentee to ask questions and share their thoughts.
- Provide clear and concise explanations of the law and the court’s analysis.
- Use real-world examples and case studies to illustrate the law and its implications.
- Encourage your mentee to think critically about the law and its application.
- Be supportive and patient, and create a safe and comfortable environment for learning.
Enhancing mentorship meetings
Just as genAI can help mentoring pairs prepare for meetings, it can also transform them into engaging and interactive experiences. During meetings, genAI tools can provide real-time outputs (answers) to live prompts (questions), as if a third participant is involved in the conversation. Still, the responses from genAI should be verified as you would other generated content for its accuracy and authority.
Unlike traditional search engine queries for information, genAI uses conversational interaction to allow for an ongoing “chat” about a specific topic. It follows the direction of the conversation, creating more realistic engagement. A mentoring pair might start new “conversations” by inputting questions or return to a chat started earlier to ask follow-up questions or even propose new legal scenarios.
Importantly, an exciting aspect of genAI in mentoring is the potential for cross-generational learning. Newer lawyers, who are often more tech-savvy, can mentor more experienced attorneys in using genAI tools effectively, fostering a culture of mutual learning. Simultaneously, genAI can help veteran lawyers apply their wealth of knowledge and experience alongside the creative outputs spawned by the tools.
Continuing learning partner
AI-driven tools can keep the learning journey going beyond the mentoring meetings. GenAI provides opportunities for ongoing learning, such as curating a personalized feed of legal articles, case studies, and news updates, ensuring that mentors and mentees stay current in their field.
It can also help monitor legislative changes, prepare for a deposition, and otherwise deliver creative applications to improve and streamline legal tasks and workflows. In this way, genAI facilitates staying abreast of the ever-evolving legal landscape and new inroads to maintaining professional competency.
While genAI offers numerous advantages, it’s crucial to address ethical concerns and ensure its use aligns with the ethical standards of the legal profession and the policies of employers. Mentors can play a pivotal role in guiding mentees in understanding the ethical implications of using genAI and promoting responsible AI usage within the legal field.
The introduction of genAI into mentoring can have a significant impact on the professional development of lawyers, helping them to build their competency and cultivate their skills.
GenAI accomplishes this through several key mechanisms, namely personalized learning experiences, efficient time management, and the facilitation of intergenerational knowledge transfer (all while giving due consideration to the ethical dimensions of the technology).
GenAI will likely emerge as a transformative force in legal mentorship and a viable companion for an enriched experience.
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