Where Do Old Lawyers Find Mentors?
At what age or stage of one’s career do you become too old to have a mentor? I’d argue never, and yet to read about mentors, you’d think that they’re exclusive reserved for the young. Because whether sponsored by law schools or bar associations or law firms, mentorship programs are invariably wasted targeted at the young. But why?
Naturally, I realize that mentorships have value to new lawyers. Mentors can show new lawyers the ropes, provide them with training and generally keep them out of trouble. Likewise, mentors can help young lawyers formulate a career path and set goals for themselves. Still, young lawyers can do much of this on their own.
Most young lawyers have time on their hands, so they can hang around the court room watching more experienced lawyers. And since no one expects young lawyers to know anything anyway, they can ask stupid question after stupid question to court clerks and the ethics hotline without any fear of embarrassment. Finally, if young lawyers screw up or wind up taking a frolic or two off the career path, well they’re young and have their entire careers to make it up.
None of that holds true for us old lawyers. Sure, we may know how to file a brief or draft a complex contract or deal with an insane client. But who can we talk to when we’re stuck in a rut in our career? Or when we want to make a career transition to an entirely different area and have no idea where to start. Most colleagues won’t help us out because as experienced lawyers, we’re perceived as a threat. Moreover, it’s hard for older lawyers to admit that their practice isn’t going so well or that they’re bored out of their mind with their practice but don’t know how to escape.
Perhaps more so than young lawyers, older lawyers need mentors – sometimes just to learn a new skill like blogging or other types of social media. But sometimes, someone who can act as a sounding board or to inspire or offer guidance and reassurance. So readers, I throw the question out to you: where do old lawyers go to find mentors?