This article was originally published in the February 2020 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Today. 

For years, mentorship has been and remains a key professional development tool for lawyers. However, in most cases, the success rates of formal law firm mentorship programs are low or unclear at best.

In the 2019 Millennial Attorney Survey, conducted by Major, Lindsey and Africa and Above the Law, which surveyed more than 1,200 attorneys, about 60% of respondents reported that an informal mentor has had either a significant (40.1%) or crucial (20.9%) role in their career, while 28.4% of respondents indicated that formal mentorship was irrelevant. This correlates with a further finding that most respondents indicated that the level of formal mentorship they received was weak (31.9%), while informal mentorship was viewed as strong (53.6%).

The reality is that most formal law firm mentorship programs are not as effective as they could be. Reasons for that are manifold (e.g., mentors and mentees are not clear about their responsibilities, the program lacks structure, etc.), but one of the key reasons is that many firms are not clear about what they want their mentorship programs to achieve.

Often, when we ask firms how they measure the success of their mentorship programs, we discover that no clear success metrics are set in place and that, at best, they rely on anecdotal feedback from the mentorship program participants. While it’s important to gather participants’ feedback, it’s rarely objective and does not help to paint the full picture. However, determining whether a mentorship program delivers the right results is key in deciding whether the program is working as intended and whether it’s worth the investment of time, money, and resources dedicated to it.

To read the full article on the ABA Law Practice Today, please click here.

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