Corporate Mentoring Programs Can Boost Your Legal Career

Corporate mentoring programs

Legal professionals can advance their careers by taking part in corporate mentoring programs. It’s a win-win situation for those in legal careers. New lawyers and legal support staff benefit from one-on-one coaching and valuable career guidance, while veteran employees who mentor junior associates get to pay it forward and enhance their soft skills.

Some corporate legal departments offer a formal program with an application process and structured time commitment. Others match mentors and mentees and let them work out the details. In addition to the traditional structure where a less experienced professional receives the benefit of a mentor’s insights and knowledge, attorneys and legal staff can also benefit from peer-to-peer mentoring, reverse mentoring and flash mentoring, where two professionals meet for a one-off session.

Here are four tips to help you make the most of your company’s mentoring program:

1.  Identify goals for participating in corporate mentoring programs

Many organizations allow self-matching as a part of their mentoring program, or at least give junior employees a say in the selection process. You can get off to a good start by listing the areas where you need guidance, and then suggesting a potential adviser who specializes in those subjects or has a particular strength you want to add to your repertoire. For example, if your long-term goal is to work in mergers and acquisitions, see whether the company’s M&A expert is participating in the corporate mentoring program. Don’t leave the partnership up to chance and risk being paired with a mentor who shares none of your professional interests.

2. Establish appropriate expectations with your mentor

Mentorships begin with an honest conversation about goals. At the first meeting, show your mentor that you’re serious about this relationship by bringing a list of discussion items. These could include advice on your in-house career path and areas of specialization. If you’re part of a small legal team and are paired with someone outside of the department, you can still benefit from a mentor’s advice in the areas of networking, professional development or public speaking. At the same time, be open to suggestions from your mentor, who will have his or her own expectations and goals.

3. Be consistent

Mentoring requires dedication, and you’ll find that the most productive relationships are longer term. Set a realistic time frame and schedule. A great deal can be achieved in a few hours a month, if both parties commit. Try to stick to the agreed upon terms. If there are times you can’t attend mentoring sessions in person, such as when traveling for work, you can suggest connecting via phone or Skype. 

Take notes during each meeting and review them before the next, making sure you’re doing your homework. It’s also a good idea to periodically assess your progress with your mentor to discuss both setbacks and improvements.

4. Make mentoring a two-way street — for both new and seasoned legal professionals

You may not think you have much to offer a seasoned employee, but that’s not true. When you ask questions, you may be prompting your mentor to consider new approaches to his or her career, and to better understand the company. Also, since no two skill sets are alike, you very likely have knowledge of and insights into technology, networking and social media that your mentor does not. Whenever possible, make mentoring a two-way street.  

Corporate mentoring programs are an excellent vehicle for increasing your technical and soft skills, but fruitful relationships take work and dedication. Enter into the mentorship with focus and determination, and your legal career will get the boost it needs.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to review some more information on how to identify the right mentor.

For more guidance and inspiration as you plan your career path, explore Robert Half Legal’s wealth of career resources, including the latest industry research and salary information.