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Mentoring Associates in a Virtual World

Mentoring: We’ve all read articles on the importance of these relationships in the professional development and growth of an associate. The mentor provides guidance and serves as a sounding board for the mentee.

Amanda Lonergan

Prior to the pandemic, this was fairly straightforward. Mentors often met their mentees in person for a coffee or lunch. Perhaps a mentee was invited to join the mentor on a client pitch, meeting or court appearance. Today though, in the age of virtual meetings, mentors and mentees need to make an extra effort to keep these relationships alive.

While most people have adjusted to the remote working model, so much can be lost when there are few in-person meetings or regular interactions with colleagues. You cannot simply go down the hallway to brainstorm a business development idea with a mentor or collaborate on a project. Moreover, associates who may have been working on growing their networks and solidifying relationships may be feeling that business development presents an impossible challenge in this new environment.

But for many senior attorneys, that has not been the case. Those who already had strong client relationships before the pandemic were able to focus their energies on maintaining those key relationships. They checked in with their clients to assess their needs and to simply serve as a friend during this difficult time.

These junior attorneys need mentors to guide them through the evolving landscape of business and professional development.

“While most people have adjusted to the remote working model, so much can be lost when there are few in-person meetings or regular interactions with colleagues.”

There are several ways to approach the problem. For example, in the New Jersey office of Greenberg Traurig, LLP, a marketing manager and a professional development manager attend monthly meetings with individual associates and their mentors. The goal is to provide the associate with an additional opportunity to connect to their firm, mentor and support staff. The associates set goals for themselves that are reviewed at each meeting; the other participants provide them with the resources and support they need to achieve their objectives. Some of the goals include writing articles or presenting continuing legal education webinars with mentors.

These meetings have encouraged associates to regularly reach out to contacts on social media, particularly LinkedIn, and hold informal virtual coffees or cocktails. They also look at the possible benefits of repurposing firm content, such as client alerts, and sending it to their contacts, particularly when the topic is relevant to their business or industry. In addition, some associates are interested in working with shareholders in other offices for added experience and perspective; the mentors help them connect.

Mentors are invaluable. Now more than ever associates need their mentors to help them navigate this new, virtual world. In turn, mentors benefit from the relationship as well. Firms that continue to nurture these relationships may see happier and more fulfilled associates, greater retention rates and a heightened sense of camaraderie.

“We are all in this together” is a sentiment that has echoed throughout this pandemic. Virtual catch-up sessions between mentors and mentees will drive this message home and will likely prove beneficial overall to firms putting in the extra effort.