Shay Xiao

“Mentorship is invaluable for those who work and think differently to others”

Scaling legal
October 19, 2022

This is a chapter from our quarterly, community-led publication, The Bundle. Download volume 2, issue #2 now for the latest insights from scaleup lawyers at Deel, Pitch, Luno and more.

Who was your mentor in the Juro community’s mentoring programme?

Rebecca Mckenzie, Codat’s Head of Legal.

How did you find the experience?

The overall experience went smoothly - it was my first experience with a formal mentoring program. The process of simply filling out a form with a few questions to specify the ideal mentor, to getting paired with someone who could offer the right guidance, was seamless.

I also liked the fact that the programme was left open-ended - for myself and my mentor, Rebecca, three months wasn’t enough time, so we decided to keep that communication going on an informal basis.

The actual programme was fairly flexible, which I also appreciated over a rigid structure that paired mentors and mentees work through, just because they feel like they have to. I enjoyed the experience.

It was great to learn from someone who had been on a similar journey, moving and progressing in-house from an early stage

What topics did you cover with your mentor?

The initial form I submitted to take part in the mentoring programme was super useful here - it gave me an opportunity to think about the concerns I wanted to raise and the topics I hoped to explore with my mentor.

The questions I wanted to cover revolved around the fact that this is my first in-house role: what should I be thinking about as a junior lawyer? How should I track my progress? What am I doing well and where do I need to improve?

It was great to learn from someone who had been on a similar journey, moving and progressing in-house from an early stage. In particular, I wanted to ask Rebecca about her career journey - how did she decide on her various career moves?

Our discussions helped me boost my confidence in knowing there’s no set path to success - but rather, it’s important to establish what you want, and what you’re good at.

Sometimes the culture may make you feel like you can’t bring your full self to the table ... having mentors who encouraged me to be myself was invaluable

Are there any other mentors that have had a big impact on you?

The ones that stood out to me the most were senior lawyers that encouraged me to be myself, which was really important, especially when you’re in a private practice environment.

You tend to focus on putting your head down and working really hard, and sometimes the environment or the culture may make you feel like you can’t really bring your full self to the table.

So I think having mentors who encouraged me to be myself played an important part in my career - and it’s invaluable, especially for people who work and think differently to others.

How important is mentoring for in-house lawyers?

Back in private practice, I was part of a large cohort, with a much clearer career trajectory. You look at what the lawyers in front of you are doing, and this helps you figure out your career journey over the next year, five years, and so on.

It seems set in stone. When I moved in-house, however, it was completely different - each in-house role is so different depending on the organization you join. There are a lot more factors that come into play in order to be an effective lawyer.

And this means many more opportunities open up to you; which is great, but also daunting to navigate as a junior lawyer. Having that mentorship in-house feels much more valuable.

Finally, who would be your dream mentor?

There’s been an increase in lawyers who are posting content on LinkedIn, and I quite like following these content creators with a strong personal voice.

I’m also really inspired by lawyers who moved in-house early in their careers, and then built a legal function from the ground up.

Join our community of in-house lawyers and legal ops teams, for access to the best events, curated content, networking opportunities and the hottest jobs.

Shay Xiao is Legal Counsel at Dentsu

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