You’re participating in an in-house legal mentoring programme - how do you make sure you get the most out of it, either as a mentor or a mentee?
Jonny Parker, Legal Counsel at what3words shares his thoughts following his experience with the Juro community’s mutual mentoring programme - where he was paired with mentor Kate Tyers, Legal Director at Ricardo PLC.
Mentoring can be hugely beneficial for both mentor and mentee, but you can’t just hope for a good match and expect to receive or impart wisdom. Having a successful mentoring programme experience takes time, effort and careful planning.
I participated in the Juro community’s mutual mentoring programme, and was paired with Kate Tyers, Legal Director at Ricardo PLC.
It was a great match in which I learned plenty from Kate, and it was largely due to the fact that we invested in the experience - we considered how we could make the most of it from the get-go.
Here are our five tips for any in-house lawyer looking at getting the most out of a mentoring programme.
Think outside the traditional mentoring structure, which involves a senior lawyer offering guidance to a junior lawyer
1. Define a ‘good match’
Juro did the matchmaking for this programme, which saved me a lot of time. They asked important questions, such as: do you have a preference as to your mentor’s level of seniority, industry and company size?
Seniority, industry, and company size are important points to consider when sourcing your own mentor.
This is my first in-house role in a startup and I’m in a legal team of two. Being able to bounce ideas off another lawyer who has deep-rooted experience working at early-stage businesses was invaluable.
2. Prioritize perspective over experience
I would recommend lawyers think outside the traditional mentoring structure, which usually involves a senior lawyer offering guidance to a junior lawyer.
I recently partnered up with a privacy counsel who is similarly qualified to me. They’re hoping to learn more about generalist in-house counsel roles, and I am hoping to boost my data protection knowledge.
My mentor, Kate Tyers, had a similar view:
“I think it’s really important to be matched with someone who will give you a different perspective. This will help challenge and shape your own thinking and style as well as accelerating your overall personal growth.”
3. Help your future self - do the homework
Before you start your mentoring journey, it’s important consider:
- The ideal cadence or length of your sessions
- Whether sessions should be held virtually or in-person
- What you want to get out of the programme
Make sure you set up recurring calendar invites, but also set up recurring reminders a few days before each session, so you can prepare.
In our first session, we created a list of potential topics, such as:
- How junior lawyers can demonstrate value to the business and make life easier for the GC
- How junior lawyers can develop important skills outside of law (e.g. strategic leadership and project management)
We both have unpredictable workloads and doing this at the very start meant that we were not lacking direction or objectives in our mentoring sessions.
We selected a topic one or two days ahead of the session to give us both time to consider and prepare for the topic. The duration of Juro’s mentoring programme really helped too, as Kate explains:
“Each Juro mentoring programme cohort is three months long, which really helps focus the pair on what they want to get out of it.
Rather than having general chit chat (which also has its own place), it’s important to look first to the end of the three month period and ask yourself: what do I want to leave the cohort with?
Working back from the end result can help lawyers use their time effectively.”
the mentor goes through a process of not only resurfacing knowledge and experience, but also analysing how they would do it differently a second time
4. Make your mentoring mutually beneficial
It’s often the case that the mentee gets more out of the mentoring programme in terms of actual legal experience, but Kate and I wanted to make our mentoring experience mutually beneficial. Kate understood that mentoring benefits both mentee and mentor, and wanted to make that experience as valuable as possible for both sides:
“When you’re asked to share some thoughts on your experience of X, or the pros and cons of Y, the mentor goes through a process of not only resurfacing that knowledge and experience, but also analysing how they would do it differently a second time.
It’s a really helpful consolidation exercise that benefits both mentor and mentee.”
5. Remember: mentoring doesn’t have to end with the programme
Working in-house can be lonely at times and the emphasis is on you to build out your own network - it’s not like working in a law firm where you are surrounded by lawyers of varying seniorities and specialities.
Your mentoring relationship doesn’t have to end when the mentoring programme comes to an end.
Kate and I have agreed to keep in touch and I’m sure we will continue to learn from each other for years to come.
As in-house lawyers, we are going through similar problems and I’ve always found the Juro community to be a really friendly and helpful bunch!
Joining a mentoring programme can feel like you’re voluntarily adding to your already mammoth to-do list, but it’s a worthwhile investment in your personal development.
Mentoring is just one of the perks we offer in our in-house legal community. Apply to join 1000+ in-house lawyers at scaling businesses here.