Classroom knowledge sets the stage, but there’s nothing like real on-the-job experience. Mentorship programs help new hires get more from onboarding while helping the old guard refine and reevaluate existing best practices.
Universities don’t teach everything.
When new attorneys enter the workforce, they often find themselves overwhelmed by responsibilities they didn’t expect. Firms that hire these green recruits have two options: hope for the best, or mentor for success.
Mentorship bridges the gap between the classroom and the office to provide new hires with the relevant knowledge they need. According to a recent PWC Millennials at Work survey, many young people prefer to take their cues from coaches and mentors. The survey ranked mentorship as the most valuable training and development opportunity in the eyes of young workers.
Law firms have all the experience they need to get young workers up to speed, and young professionals are willing to listen. Those that champion their mentorship programs can gain a recruitment edge by helping new lawyers unlock their potential.
Mentorship in company culture
Mentorship programs offer a collegial, cooperative environment that should be familiar to most new law school graduates. By developing a formal mentorship structure, firms can create a positive culture that fosters collaboration.
These programs don’t just help new attorneys — they help the old guard, too. In teaching, mentors must force themselves to think through processes that may have become automatic over the years. This exercise in professional mindfulness (combined with the fresh perspective of the student) often helps seasoned lawyers recognize opportunities to improve or update existing processes.
Organizations that fail to mentor new hires miss out on all the benefits mentorship programs provide. Who doesn’t enjoy a culture in which people are free to ask questions, research new solutions, and learn from those who have seen it all?
To foster a culture of cooperation and mentorship, follow these tips:
1. Track and measure growth.
Don’t just assume mentorship will help — prove it. Our law firm uses case management software to track how quickly and completely employees complete tasks, meet goals, and achieve KPIs. By measuring output before and after mentoring, both on an individual and departmental level, law firms can identify the value of mentorship while giving mentees experience and feedback.
2. Clarify responsibilities.
New lawyers learn a little bit of everything at first. Encourage people to cooperate with different departments, but avoid confusing recent recruits about their core responsibilities. Provide clear, detailed descriptions of job roles. Outline advancement opportunities as well, so the latest hires know which skills they should develop in order to grow at the firm.
3. Talk about metrics.
Have mentors and mentees discuss the metrics by which the company judges productivity. When new hires know the KPIs, they gain an appreciation for how their role benefits the company and learn to optimize their work accordingly.
4. Use tools and tech to help.
We’ve found that extensive training programs with position-specific modules help recruits hit the ground running. Use training tools and subject matter resources during the onboarding process to help lawyers explore their new duties on their own. Young professionals are especially adept at finding relevant information, so supplement mentorship programs with self-guided lessons to amplify the process.
5. Include senior leaders.
The big bosses should not be excused from the mentorship experience. In our summer associate program, law students get to work alongside senior litigators on some of our firm’s biggest cases. Those experiences help students get a high-level view of our work and see the pros in action. As a bonus, connecting young students to senior staff members helps us source and attract top talent right out of law school.
6. Offer mentorship incentives.
Our company uses goal-oriented and incentive-based pay for managers who mentor. This lets us emphasize professional development and ensure that managers feel motivated to share their knowledge. Get company leaders and longtime workers involved in the process by providing bonuses to those who participate. Create opportunities (such as contests) for managers and their mentees to work on projects together. Use a reward system to integrate mentorship into the company’s DNA.
Classroom knowledge sets the stage, but there’s nothing like real on-the-job experience. Mentorship programs help new hires get more from onboarding while helping the old guard refine and reevaluate existing best practices. Use these tips to implement a mentorship program and start enjoying the benefits of shared knowledge.