THE ADVOCATE 875
VOL. 78 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2020
By Sam Lupton*
BEING A MENTOR IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION
Becoming a lawyer and establishing a practice takes a great deal of hard
work and the realization of various skills and intellectual capacities. These
well-earned attributes are often recognized and admired by many in and
around a lawyer’s life, but perhaps most acutely by other lawyers. And thus
often, formally or informally, lawyers are presented with the opportunity
to act as a mentor to a new and upcoming lawyer looking for guidance.
These lawyer mentees are looking for wisdom, support and perspective,
and a lawyer mentor is looking to help and to contribute to another’s life
and their profession. A good mentoring relationship can be mutually beneficial
to both the mentor and the mentee.
But what does being a mentor actually entail? Specifically within the
legal profession, what do good mentors do, and more importantly, what do
they not do?
Unfortunately, many lawyers need to work hard to be good mentors; the
profession can attract those who are skeptical, argumentative, impatient and
perfectionists, strong character traits unsurprisingly absent in many good
mentors. In addition, some of the very skills that make lawyers successful in
their profession can also prevent them from being effective mentors. The
broadest example of this is a lawyer’s well-trained ability to identify faults
and weaknesses. While this skill is of great use professionally, applying this
mindset when working with a mentee is actually counterproductive. The
reason is that research shows the majority of people do not actually learn
from or absorb negative feedback from a third party very well. If anything,
criticism actually delays corrective changes and self-analysis. This pattern of
negative feedback is based on three commonly accepted but untrue theories
* Sam Lupton is an associate director, and is currently in training as a counselor, for LAPBC.