How to Find a Good Mentor

As an entry-level legal professional in a law firm, I would really like to be paired up with an in-house mentor, someone who could give me advice as I move up in my career. But how do I go about actually finding a good mentor, and how should I approach him or her?

Mentors are invaluable for professionals in almost all legal jobs. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of lawyers interviewed for a recent Robert Half Legalsurvey said mentors were their single best source of legal career advice. These experienced guides can help you navigate everything from fitting in with the office culture to feeling confident in the courtroom. Here are a few steps for finding a mentor.

1. Identify your weaknesses and any obstacles to your goals.Your ideal mentor’s strengths should align with your specific needs. For example, if your analytical and logical reasoning skills are strong but your legal research techniques need honing, you will want to seek out an experienced law professional who is also a technology whiz and keeps up with the latest trends in eDiscovery case law.

2. Get involved in a mentorship program.In-house mentors are optimal, as they understand the quirks and challenges of working in your particular firm and have legal career advice that can help you move up. If your firm doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, ask around for suggestions about who could serve as your mentor. Keep in mind that it’s not the best idea to recruit your direct supervisor as a mentor, as there are things you’ll want to discuss with your mentor that you wouldn’t want to talk about with your boss — for example, exploring and applying for other legal jobs.

3. Make a clear and humble overture.After you have one or more potential mentors in mind, approach them in person or by email. Briefly but clearly state your career goals, explain why you think the two of you would be a good match, and share some of your goals for your mentor-mentee relationship. Give the person some time to think about the idea, and suggest that the two of you meet over coffee or lunch to discuss it further.

Mentors are a vital source of legal career advice. They’ve been there and done that, and they can help you avoid making mistakes as you move up in the firm or seek other legal jobs. Good luck finding your Yoda.