At one time, most lawyers were mentored by more senior attorneys. Mentoring took place within a firm, through bar association or other professional organizations, or in established relationships with more experienced lawyers. But, there has been a breakdown in the mentoring system in the legal industry.
Lawyers are too busy and don’t have the time to act as mentors. Lawyers move around much more frequently, and potential mentors are less interested in assisting an attorney that may not be with the firm next year. Whatever the reasons, many lawyers are left to their own devices when considering the development of their career path. Solo practitioners have difficulty being consistently around other professionals to discuss career issues. Big Law attorneys may not feel comfortable talking about career challenges with colleagues at their firm. And, in-house counsel or government groups in the legal profession are not placed with any kind of mentor.
Many lawyers, no matter where they work, don’t have people they can discuss their career issues with and get good feedback. Trying to figure out how to move forward on your career path by yourself is perilous. You are not unbiased and have preconceived ideas that may not be accurate. You also sometimes (or all the time) procrastinate and not hold yourself accountable for your career path.
While one-on-one professional assistance is available, consider joining or forming a mastermind group to help you with your career issues.
What is a mastermind group? It is a career-focused, small group of similarly situated people who get together regularly to discuss issues related to the group’s purpose. Sometimes the purpose might also be to discuss business development issues.
Good lawyer career mastermind groups are composed of attorneys from the same professional level. The ideal mastermind group consists of lawyers from different practice areas and different firms. Mastermind groups usually meet once a month. The meeting can be in person, over the phone, or on Skype. The group should have a few basic rules.
The most important rules are:
* Absolute confidentiality
* No derogatory comments about other group members
* Strict attendance policy, second time you miss you’re out
So, what are the benefits of participating in a mastermind group?
1. Objective evaluations by unbiased people Getting feedback about your strengths and weaknesses is essential. It can be hard for us to evaluate ourselves, particularly when considering our personality traits and how other perceive us. Great careers are built on our strengths. It is important we know our strengths with certainty.
2. Creativity encouraged by brainstorming
Brainstorming with others encourages creativity and innovation. People with different experiences and perspectives can shed fresh light on career issues troubling us. When we consider other professional’s career issues, we may have breakthroughs in our careers.
3. Accountability within the group
While unbiased perspective, creativity, and innovation are important, they are wasted unless you take action. Mastermind groups require a commitment to specific actions within a certain time and act as accountability partners to each other to ensure progress is made between each meeting.
How do you find a mastermind group? Ask colleagues and professional contacts. Check with bar associations and other legal groups. Check on lawyers.meetup.com/all for a list of legal groups. The groups on that site are larger than ideal for a mastermind, but you might find a few people at those meetups to form a mastermind group.
If you can’t locate a mastermind group, you can form your own. Go through your contacts and identify potential group members at a similar level in their career. Don’t restrict the list to lawyers. Call possible members and let them know what you are doing. Ask if they would be interested. Try to get between 4 and 8 group members. That number seems to be the ideal size. Many mastermind groups pay a monthly fee to participate in the group. The fee helps hold the members accountable and keep them focused. It also provides compensation to the member responsible for forming the group.
Depending on the size of the mastermind group, monthly meetings should be an hour and a half to two hours long. There are no leaders, but one member should be designated to help make sure that everyone gets time to discuss any career issue they desire and that the meetings don't get off track. If particular issues are common to the group, occasionally someone with more experience is invited to participate in one meeting devoted to issues in that area. Part of the monthly fees can compensate the person if necessary.
Taking advantage of membership in a mastermind group may be one of the best decisions you can make to propel your career forward to achieve success, prosperity and personal fulfillment.
Greg Yates is a member of the DC Bar. He advises and coaches other lawyers on issues related to their careers. Greg recently published Personal Prosperity For Lawyers: Find The Perfect Job And Create Your Ideal Career.