The Criticality of Mentoring for Women in Law
I believe mentoring is a key aspect to the success of women in the legal profession. Studies have shown that workplace mentoring can positively impact many areas, including behaviors, attitudes, health, relationships, and careers. In a law-firm setting, having a good mentor gives a young attorney someone to learn from, someone to bounce ideas off of, and someone to vent to. Those issues are critically important for women in the legal profession.
Many women find mentors in men. Indeed, in some firms there is no option but to find a male mentor. With the advent of the #metoo movement there has been some pushback from senior men, citing a concern about being too familiar with a woman or a hesitation about being alone with a young woman associate. These attitudes can cause significant negative results for young women in law firms. Men need to continue mentoring women in law firms so that women get the same access to the experience, opportunities, and collegiality that can be the difference between a woman staying at a firm or leaving for some other career path.
Similarly, and from my perspective more importantly, women must mentor other women. There can be no excuse for senior women not helping younger women in the law-firm setting. Indeed, senior women must go out of their way to support, advise, and help younger women at law firms. I have been lucky to have had not just one, but a handful of women mentors at my firm, ranging from five years to twenty years my senior. Some work in my field, while others do not. I have learned that what matters most is the commitment of women supporting women, not whether they share a generation or a practice area. Having support from other woman will make the difference as to whether we are able to retain women in the legal profession.
My personal philosophy is to help as many women as I can at my firm. Whether it is staffing them on cases, giving them advice on their own cases, or just talking to them, it is my duty and obligation to pay it forward for the women of the next generation. We must stick together. And then together, we will succeed in defining what the face of the next generation of lawyers looks like.