The Law Times News recently released an article titled, “Women lawyers’ secrets to success” by Helen Burnett-Nichols. The author conducted a follow-up survey on the career paths of 23 female lawyers who were identified in 2009 as high achievers by their respective employers. These women spanned the spectrum in regards to martial status, but were clustered in the litigation and corporate practice areas. Four years later, 19 of those women are now partners at their firms and continue to be excellent role models for aspiring female lawyers across the industry.
Of course, these women were originally identified as high achievers because of their excellent performance, strong work ethic, as well as, ongoing leadership positions. However, the author has acknowledged a unique common denominator among these legal powerhouses: mentorship.
Thirty, twenty, even ten years ago, it was very difficult for a young female lawyer to find a same-sex mentor who was willing and able to nurture new talent. While there is always room for improvement, there are currently many more women in high-powered and partner positions. Women have worked very hard to crack the glass ceiling, climb the corporate ladder, gain entrance into the boy’s clubs, and whatever other cliché used to describe the stark gendered imbalance in the legal industry. These women should not only be celebrated, but also learned from. Their lessons, experience, and knowledge are irreplaceable and relevant to current and future waves of neophyte lawyers.
On a practical level, mentors can act as a point person for various opportunities, projects, and different practice areas. A more experienced and senior lawyer can give you and your work legitimacy and recognition, separating you from the masses of associates. Additionally, by diversifying your work experience across varied legal subjects, processes, and lawyers, you will ultimately cultivate a greater range of skills and abilities.
Mentors, with their plethora of advice, can guide you through both personal and professional matters. It is up to you to find a suitable sensei, to nurture and to maintain the relationship. Remember, a good mentorship team is reciprocal and dynamic. If you are entering a new firm, or have worked in the same office for a few years, seek out an individual with whom you have a strong rapport with and reach out for support. You’ll be surprised at how willing those at the top are willing to help.