As we get ready to kick-off another year of mentor externship I am preparing our annual mentor training session. Every year we offer voluntary training for our mentors on mentoring in the legal profession. So over the next few weeks I am going to use the blog to share some thoughts how to be a great mentor.
Here is one initial thought to get the ball rolling. I think that being a great mentor begins with understanding three basic mentoring functions: career mentoring, psychosocial mentoring, and professionalism mentoring.
Career mentoring is the concept that mentors help their protégés develop key skills, knowledge and opportunities to excel in their careers. Career mentoring may involve sharing the unwritten rules of the legal profession, it may involve helping the protégé with specific skill development like legal writing, allowing a student to observe a deposition or court appearance and then explaining how to perform each of those activities with excellence, or helping the student network and connect with key members of a profession.
Psychosocial mentoring helps the protégé develop the psychological and emotional confidence to excel in the profession. Psychosocial mentoring may involve helping the protégé through a difficult time, congratulating them on their successes, and commiserating with them about their mistakes.
Finally, the professionalism function, which we view as unique to the legal profession, identifies how mentors help protégés develop the professional identity and values of a lawyer. It is a combination of role modeling great behavior, counseling the protégé about our professional values and ideals, and helping them understand “gold standard” professional behavior in the context of what lawyers actually do.
Once a mentor understands the key three mentoring functions then the next step is honest and candid self-assessment about which of those functions the mentor can best offer the protégé. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. No one mentor is likely to be excellent at all three mentoring functions. In reality most protégés understand that and only expect mentors to give what they can. So as a mentor, give some thought to which of the mentoring functions you are ready and able to provide and communicate honestly and clearly with your protégé.
Check back in the coming weeks for more thoughts on being a great mentor.