There is no doubt mentoring is extremely important to the careers of associates. It is extremely important that law firms and their associates realize that mentoring programs are crucial for retention and the career development of associates.

Mentoring involves coaching, motivation, training, advice, leadership, and more.

See the following articles for more information: Regardless, views on mentoring are changing from what they once were:
  • Associates once thought of mentoring as guidance and a watchful eye, assistance in maneuvering their way to partnership or into that cushy in-house job, or the best way to get the best assignments.
  • Partners viewed mentoring through a filter formed by the kind of relationships and experience they themselves had as associates – good or bad.
  • Law firms, in general, viewed mentoring as important, but didn't feel comfortable promising much in the way of mentoring because they couldn't force partners to mentor.
Today we find associates not really knowing what to ask for, and partners and firms not really sure of what they can reasonably offer in the way of mentoring. The good news is that the evolution of the "mentoring movement" has provided clues that point to a more successful future for mentoring.

The History of Law Firm Mentoring Programs

A brief history may be useful here. What we call mentoring today is a way of describing the apprentice/protégé relationship that historically supported the development of private practice attorneys as long as firms have been around. A senior lawyer would pass on his or (much more rarely, in those days) her knowledge and experience and make sure the new attorney became a true "member" of the firm. Back then, every law student hired was considered a potential partner, and this type of individualized support was seen as critical to individual development and inculcation into the firm's unique culture.