No attorney is an island. No one is successful by themselves. The truth is it takes a village – whether you work for a firm, work for yourself and have support staff, or have the support of your family and friends, none of us succeeds by ourselves. I’m often asked by other attorneys the best way to find a mentor. The truth is, mentors are everywhere, but you aren’t going to find one sitting at your computer (the same is true for developing a book of business by the way!). Get out and meet people at networking events. Join your local bar association, invite other attorneys you admire out to coffee (virtual coffees work too, if the attorney doesn’t live near you). When I worked in Big Law, we were assigned more experienced lawyers as our mentors – I think most law firms of any size assign younger associates mentors. None of these people ever became my mentor in real life. EVER! Instead, I would always seek out the attorneys I admired for one reason or another – maybe it was their practice area, maybe it was their career path, maybe it was the way they handled conflict, maybe it was the way they spoke to clients on a call, whatever the reason – and I would invite them to lunch and get to know them. I used my college journalism skills to ask them a lot of questions. It’s a bit like dating in that if it’s not the right fit for you (the mentee) it won’t work. But, remember that, like any relationship, a mentoring relationship grows over time.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone with more experience than you (not necessarily older than you) who can support you, advise, and provide you with professional guidance. A mentor can help you see things differently because of their valuable perspective or vantage point. It is not their role to tell you what to do or how to do it (this is why it’s probably best to have a mentor outside your firm if you work for one), but to help you ask the questions so that you can determine the best path forward for you. When you forge a strong relationship with a mentor, they can become a lifelong friend – I know mine certainly have – but you may just need a mentor for a specific period of time to reach a certain goal. That’s OK too. Mentors are not necessarily the same as teachers, coaches or therapists. All of these people are paid for their roles. It is also not a mentor’s role to help you find a job, although they might be a great sounding board when you are applying for that next career move or to help you reach your professional goals. One thing is for certain, they will be your biggest cheerleader when you apply for and ultimately land the new job! A mentor-mentee relationship is mutual. Being a mentor is very fulfilling and rewarding for the mentor to watch the person they are mentoring achieve their goals. It can also help the mentor improve their communication skills and grow as a leader.
The benefits of being a mentor
Being involved in a mentoring relationship is not a one-way street. For the mentor, they can and often do learn from the mentee. We all have unique skills to share with each other. Most people who are mentored often become a mentor to others. Why? Because they have benefitted from the relationship and want to pay it forward. Our profession is very difficult and presents some unique challenges. While it may be best to find a fellow attorney to mentor you, if you also own your own practice, you may also want to seek out a mentor for business, marketing, or financial guidance. You aren’t cheating if you have more than one mentor. I have several mentors – from my prior marketing career and from my legal career – and they complement each other well.
Trademarkabilities’ role as mentor
I developed Trademarkabilities® A Training Academy for Lawyers to share my experience with the next generation of trademark lawyers. Whether you have been practicing law for 3 years or 15, you may need help and support as you learn the wonderful world of trademark law. Since I don’t have time to mentor all the attorneys that reach out to me individually, this was the best way I could think of to give back to a legal profession that has given me so much and that I truly love. We offer ongoing group mentoring to all the attorneys who enroll in the Trademarkabilities® Masterclass to ensure they are as prepared as possible to represent clients confidently and competently. If you’re ready to level up your trademark knowledge and join us, you can learn more here.
Stacey C. Kalamaras is the founder and lead instructor of Trademarkabilities®, an online trademark academy for lawyers, whose mission it is to prepare lawyers to be confident and effective practitioners before the USPTO. Stacey started Trademarkabilities to share her passion teaching the law with the next generation of lawyers and help them become practice ready lawyers. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stacey is also a seasoned trademark attorney and currently works in-house as Senior Counsel for a multi-national candy company. She previously owned her own solo trademark practice, which she scaled and sold. She has been recognized by her peers for her outstanding knowledge and service in intellectual property law.