To the junior lawyer, a mentor is wise, battled-tested, and the purveyor of golden aphorisms. To the junior lawyer, a mentor is Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Our assumptions about mentorship are often inconsistent with the challenges faced by junior lawyers. This makes the question of how can a junior lawyer mentor others seem nonsensical. I have found, however, that there are good opportunities for junior lawyers to mentor others.
Mentoring by Example
Take a junior colleague or student along with you on a simple task. I remember when Advocacy Club members, Andrew Ferguson or Margot Leduc Pomerleau, would ask me to join them on a quick motion. They did what they had to do, and I just watched. Simple stuff.
During the travel to and from, they explained what they were doing and why. This seems like training, but it was not. They were sharing their experiences with me. This meant a lot to me. Just watching and listening to them brought clarity where there had been confusion.
Confidence Where There Had Been Fear
I now knew where to stand in Court. How to pass an order to the judge/master. How to behave without embarrassing myself. Hooray! Tagging along and watching them breeze through the tasks they had mastered made them mentors in my eyes. It’s akin to the old tale of that kid carrying the virtuoso’s guitar case to the gig. The kid feels imbued with increased talent. You can mentor others in a silent way.
Keep it Simple
At one time or another, my mentors have all provided the same zen-like advice: “the more I practice, the less I know.” This is not false modesty. Nor does it to undermine the knowledge a mentor possesses in practice management or substantive law. Rather, it reminds us that we never know what will come through the door. How a deal will unfold. What will happen in the courtroom. No matter the seniority. A junior lawyer already knows this is true.
Articling taught us that everything is up for grabs. I believe a junior lawyer can mentor others by promoting the same practice. Pay it forward. The one standard in practice is integrity and good judgment. Everything else can be improvised. Play on.
Mario’s new law practice website: www.mgiovanelaw.com