The Importance of Mentoring

When it was announced that I was a recipient of this award, the managing partner of my firm sent a firmwide email congratulating me. The responses from my colleagues, and their kind words of support and appreciation caused me to blush. One of my colleagues, in particular, wrote to me: You’ve been a wonderful friend and mentor.” Mentor. That word holds such prestige in my worldview, and it is resonating with me as I write this. I have been extraordinarily lucky in my career to have had so many incredible mentors, from whom I have learned so much, and who have inspired me to pay it forward.

Those mentors have run the gamut and have taught me so many invaluable lessons. The firm at which I was a summer associate during law school had an official mentoring program, and the mentor to whom I was assigned is still a friend nearly 25 years later. In our first phone call before I began, I sought her counsel about the appropriateness of open-toed sandals and red-painted toes in the office. She laughed not at me, but with me, and dispensed her sartorial advice. Her advice over the years, however, was hardly limited to the sartorial.

The judge for whom I had the honor of clerking after law school initially intimidated me. As is standard for law clerks, at the beginning of my clerkship, she asked me to write a draft decision on a pending motion. My initial thought was, “Um, you’re the judge. I have just graduated from law school. Aren’t you better equipped to do this than I?” Of course, however, I undertook the task, working as hard as I can recall ever working, not wanting to disappoint her. Her reaction to the draft? “You’re wrong. Want to know why?” She then invited me to sit down with her, and took the time to go over the decision with me and explain her thought process and reasoning. That experience of being forced to go out on a limb, not get it entirely “right,” and not only survive, but to get so much out of the process, has been the core to my professional success. Without trying and putting in the effort, success will forever be elusive.

I could go on about the mentors who have had an indelible influence on me. However, their collective true impact is my understanding of the effect of mentoring. My professional success, my true merit as a Woman Worth Watching, will be measured (at least by me) by my impact on my colleagues. This award has allowed me to reflect on this fact, bringing it into high relief, and directing me forward.