In Mentor Externship we spend a lot of time talking about how important it is to build and protect your professional reputation. It takes a lifetime to build your reputation and a day to destroy it.
However, how often do we think about how our actions affect the collective reputations related to us? What we do not only reflects on us but it also reflects on our mentors, our employers, and the other organizations of which we are a part. I remember when I began at my law firm we had practice group meetings and Saturday training sessions that not only helped with skill development, those sessions also focused on doing things the “Rider Way”. It was constantly drilled into new associates that when they appeared in court or interacted with opposing counsel their actions not only said something about them, they said something about our firm. New associates benefited from the great reputation built by those who preceded them and they were expected to conduct themselves in a way that built that reputation not damaged it.
This point also applies to how students conduct themselves in MentorExternship. Our students are out in the community often. Our first students worked hard to use the mentor program to build a positive reputation. Each new class of students benefits from that reputation. However, each new generation of students also risks destroying that reputation if they do not conduct themselves with the highest levels of professionalism. I hope students always consider how their actions impact the rest of our community.
Thinking about the larger group is not currently in vogue. Our culture often emphasizes and even glorifies the individual. We do not emphasize our collective obligations to one another. Yet, as a peer reviewed profession part of our professional training is to hold each other and ourselves accountable for how our actions impact not only ourselves but each other too.
So, whether you are a law student or an attorney, give some thought to how hard others worked to build the reputation of your organization and how your own actions impact that reputation. I think back to helpful advice one of my own mentors used to give all of us as new associates, borrowed from the old television drama Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”