“Dear LiL: I read the blog by Ms. Yee regarding her transition to a partial work from home arrangement. It got me thinking, being a young lawyer, how does one receive mentorship when senior lawyers are not having an office presence? How do we overcome the in-person solutions, that no longer exist? Such as knocking on a senior lawyer’s door the moment you have a question as opposed to waiting for that email to come in?” Signed ~ Curious young lawyer
(Read Kim’s previous blog post on her transition to remote work here).
Dear Curious Young Lawyer:
I think that your question about mentorship is an excellent one. How to effectively provide and receive mentorship is relevant not only to those who have an alternate work arrangement in place (or are contemplating that), but this is currently an issue of great importance to so many lawyers and staff who are working remotely due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to your question. However, I am happy to share my thoughts about some of the things that I think both mentors and mentees can do to promote and maintain these vital relationships in an increasingly virtual environment.
Mentorship is more important than ever given the challenging times that we are in. At present, I think that mentors and leaders within law firms have a unique opportunity to really demonstrate what excellent mentoring looks like. Now is the time to reach out to mentees, whether those relationships are formal or informal. We need to create a culture of “open doors” and create opportunities for meaningful conversations. This may look different in different firms. This may mean creating an environment where a video call, text, email, or phone call from a mentee or colleague in need of guidance or support is not only welcomed but encouraged. For others, this may be achieved by organizing more virtual social gatherings in order to create opportunities for connection or setting up more formal mentorship programs to ensure that mentees have adequate support.
As mentors we need to be mindful about how challenging it is for our mentees to hone their professional skills in today’s world and make a concerted effort to adapt our approach. This is not only important on an interpersonal level, but just makes good business sense too. Mentorship is a cornerstone of retention and recruitment. Mentoring is also amongst the most powerful and effective ways to circulate knowledge within a firm.
For mentees, I think it is important to ask for what you need. Do not assume that your mentor has a good understanding about what you need. Reach out to your mentor(s) if you feel you need more support and keep the lines of communication open. If you have ideas about how your firm can better support you, I urge you to share your ideas. We are all trying to weather this storm and navigate this new territory together. Additionally, seize those opportunities for face-to-face meetings. If it is appropriate to schedule a virtual meeting as opposed to just exchanging emails about something, go for it.
In summary, while there is no easy answer to all of this, I do think that there are ways that we can continue to maintain and promote mentor/mentee relationships. In my view, the key is making this a priority.
About the Author
Kim Yee is a Partner at Harper Grey LLP and a member of their Insurance and Health Law Groups. Kim’s legal practice is broadly focused on matters associated with complex bodily injury claims which often involve complex causation issues. In 2016 Kim was recognized as one of Lexpert’s Leading Lawyers Under 40 in Canada and in 2017, she was recognized as a “Leading Lawyer to Watch” in the area of Litigation – Commercial Insurance by the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory®. She shares her time between Vancouver and Vancouver Island and advises clients across British Columbia, and on occasion in Alberta.