Mentors Find Reverse Mentoring Revitalizes Their Own Practice

reverse mentoringDo you fit this mold? You’ve developed a niche legal practice for yourself over many years, maybe even over a couple decades. You have a book of business including many long-term, dedicated clients who turn to you time and again for legal services. You’ve even helped their relatives and two, sometimes three different generations from the same family. When you reflect on what providing “legal services” means to you, these clients and their cases come to mind. You’ve helped a lot of people, as this is why you became a lawyer.

Nevertheless, despite lawyers’ constant intellectually challenging work on diverse issues for our clients, we can and do find ourselves in a job rut from time to time. We all need a spark of motivation; a new perspective to recognize the value of our work and, more importantly, the value of ourselves.

Attorneys notoriously invest our entire self into our jobs. We bring our whole self to work as it demands all of our abilities to act as problem solvers, issue spotters, rule interpreters. So, when that less-whole self returns home at the end of the work day, your feeling emotionally drained or in an unmotivated rut may spill over into every aspect of your life. You need a revitalization – to your career, your practice, and yourself. The answer might be to help yourself through helping another – by mentoring another attorney.

The Teacher Becomes the Student

Over the past five years since the Illinois Supreme Court launched its Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program through its Commission on Professionalism, the participants’ feedback from the mentors has remained constant to the fact that they not only learned a great deal from their mentee, their own sense of purpose and pride in the law profession has been renewed. This is reverse mentoring.

Mentors report that their sense of leaving a legacy for the next generation of lawyers enhances their own self-respect for their work and practice. They are refreshed in their career and in their personal life. And along the mentoring journey for the prior year, they report having gained new understandings of the law, and perspectives of professionalism and service to their clients. New perspectives and perceptions often come from mentoring a lawyer of a different generation, and some times of a different gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation or otherwise. While our Mentoring Program awards all participants with six hours of Professional Responsibility CLE credit, the real value of the program are these intangibles, for the attorneys involved and for the legal profession.

Don’t Forget, We Are Social Creatures Too

Several mentees at Winston & Strawn LLP recently praised their mentoring experiences and what they had learned from their mentors. Their feedback included their mentor’s “great advice about seeking pro bono opportunities that I can be truly passionate about and will give me good experience,” said one mentee associate attorney. They spoke of how mentors helped expand the outlook on their career goals while pushing common sense problem solving and maintaining work-life balance.

My Mentor taught me something else this year. She taught me how important it is to not only be a great lawyer, but how important it is to take time away from work to be with your family. She helped me learn that it’s okay to do that and that I would never regret it.

As the mentors impart their advice and knowledge to their newer colleagues, they become more connected and engaged. All the while, they are reaffirming their own professional skills and knowledge as well as the ethical framework that encompasses their work. This forms another indirect benefit of reverse mentoring.

Mentors have navigated their careers to a point where they can now turn to the next generation of their profession to offer help. As we have seen, they too discover they are actually helping themselves along the way.

Learn more about the Illinois Supreme Court’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program here and how you revitalize your practice and yourself.

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Mark C. Palmer

Mark C. Palmer

As Professionalism Counsel, Mark leads professionalism programming through the statewide mentoring program, collaborating with stakeholders from Galena to Cairo. Mark also supports the development and delivery of educational programming to lawyers and in law schools. When not in the office, you will likely find Mark and his wife busy raising their twin daughters, enjoying his passion of traveling and eating around the world, and training for his next half marathon.
Mark C. Palmer

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