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Big Law Attorneys Share Why Mentoring Matters

April 6, 2022, 8:00 AM

Starting as a new associate at a law firm marks the exciting beginning of a dreamed-for legal career. But for many—especially women, minorities, or first-generation attorneys—walking through the door doesn’t mean you know what to do, how to do it, or whom to ask for help.

Mentorships can play a pivotal role in smoothing a career path, and finding a mentor who can offer ongoing guidance and support is key. We asked partners who were once mentored themselves to share how the experience affected their careers.

They said professional guidance from a more experienced attorney—a senior associate or partner—who worked in their same practice area, or who shared similar life experiences, was of great help, even if only as a sounding board. Sometimes a mentor introduced the attorney to important clients, employers, or other individuals who proved to be key to their futures. Most said they were inspired to pass on that help to others.

In our series debut, Reed Smith partner Liza Craig in Washington, D.C., invokes poet Maya Angelou in recognizing the importance of treating mentees with care and respect. She gives some pointers on how to mentor others, including the importance of listening, offering constructive criticism, and allowing mentees to make their own decisions.

“Time and time again, my colleagues tell me that they can recall with ease a kind word of encouragement when they needed it most,” she says.

In his contribution, Wilson Sonsini’s Luke Liss in Silicon Valley shares how a pioneering Black litigator at his firm, Harry Bremond, inspired him to persevere as a first-generation law school graduate, and eventually to become a pro bono partner at the firm.

He says of being mentored by Bremond, a leader in the pro bono movement: “I saw how it drastically increased my network, visibility, and sense of purpose with the firm that invested so much in me. I now see it as a crucial aspect of my career trajectory.”

Click on the attorneys’ names below to read their stories of how being a mentor, or receiving that kind of coaching or guidance, has played a significant role in their lives.

Then, join us again next week for our second installment of “Why Mentoring Matters.”

To contact the reporter on this story: MP McQueen at mmcqueen@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lisa Rockelli Gordon at lrockelli@bloomberglaw.com; Lisa Helem at lhelem@bloombergindustry.com