The first time I mentored a colleague, I think I got more out of it than they did, which is never a good way to start a blog about learning.
One of the biggest challenges I faced was staying intentional and focused with a mentoring curriculum. I had big ideas about what I wanted to cover (issue number one: “what I wanted to cover”) but often got distracted by addressing questions that came up in daily work.
While we ended up covering an array of topics over the months we worked together, one highlight was a joint learning project. It gave us a jumping-off point to dive into related topics like collaborating with others, identifying team needs, and effective communication.
Learn While Teaching
If you need a tangible goal to work toward in your mentoring program, develop a CLE with your mentor or mentee.
Uncovering a topic you’re both passionate about, identifying audiences who could benefit from learning more, and developing key takeaways for lawyers in the area all fall into the suggested action items in the Commission’s mentoring curriculum. They can also serve as a focal point to address a range of issues in the workplace.
What’s more, research suggests that teaching on a topic can deepen understanding and recall. In fact, Seneca, the Roman stoic philosopher, once said, “[People] learn while they teach.”
This is sometimes referred to as the Protégé Effect and is a strategy used often in education. Betty’s Brain, an AI bot developed by researchers at Vanderbilt University, utilizes the learning-by-teaching paradigm to engage students in learning about science topics. And data shows that the process significantly engages students and improves their understanding of a topic.
Earn CLE While You Develop a CLE
I wrote about the benefits of delivering CLE a few weeks ago, along with tips from legal organizations on topics that are in high demand and instructions for submitting proposals. However, committing to developing and delivering a CLE can be daunting, even for experienced presenters.
That’s where the Commission’s Train the Trainer guide can help. Train the Trainer is a hands-on, step-by-step guide that walks you through the process for developing and presenting a CLE: from identifying a topic and understanding your audience to facilitating activities and securing feedback.
If the idea of developing a CLE with your mentoring partner still seems overwhelming, I’ve outlined how I would work with a mentee on such a project:
- Find your shared passion. Identify 3 or 4 topics you’re both interested in, then narrow it down to one subject you would like to learn more about. For example, if you’re both passionate about access to justice, a CLE that outlines the benefits of pro bono work for young lawyers could be a great topic.
- Find an audience. Organizations are always looking for diverse CLE speakers across geographies, ages, experience levels, etc. Most organizations have guidelines or a contact person who oversees the CLE calendar and can discuss the organization’s needs, any delivery constraints, timelines, required materials, etc.
- Identify takeaways. Identify 2 to 3 takeaways you want the audience to walk away with. This can be a behavior change, tips and tricks to implement in their practice, or insights they didn’t have before. There is likely a disparity in the experience of the mentor and mentee, so consider ways to position you both as experts at different times. For example, when it comes to the pro bono for young lawyers idea, mentors could speak to the benefits of pro bono work for career development, and mentees could discuss what’s standing in the way of younger lawyers committing to volunteering.
- Do your homework. Sitting on a Zoom call while you both research a topic is a waste of time. Divvy up research tasks during each mentoring session and discuss them in a follow-up meeting.
- Practice. Set up a practice session with colleagues or friends. The Train the Trainer guide has some great presenting tips (including for virtual delivery), but there is nothing like real-time feedback for perfecting content and refining your presentation style.
It’s important to own the process and enjoy it. In my experience, audiences respond best when you are open. Sharing that the CLE was developed as part of a mentoring collaboration may pique people’s interests and increase engagement. They may even have questions about the process at the end.
If you’re part of the Commission’s mentoring program, don’t forget to utilize the mentoring plan supplement to take your discussions further and deeper. By considering the CLE as a vehicle to drive conversation, discussion, and growth, you can check off a range of different activities outlined in the supplement and have a product at the end to be proud of.
While these steps to develop a CLE certainly aren’t set in stone, hopefully, they’ve triggered some ideas. I encourage you to identify a process that works best for you and your mentoring partner.
Good luck, and as always, I’d love to hear your comments, questions, or feedback.
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