Last summer, I featured Perkins Coie partner Brian Potts, whose initial rejection letter from the firm went viral on LinkedIn. His story resonated with many aspiring young lawyers as well as older attorneys who wanted to emulate his accomplishment. During our interview, he said that he was starting a mentor network with a number of attorneys to help the many people who have reached out to him.
This has resulted in the creation of the Legal Mentor Network (LMN), which launched in December. The founding members — along with Potts — are Chrystal Mauro, alongside DLA Piper’s Matt Schwartz and Lenora Ausbon-Odom. The founding sponsors are DLA Piper and Reed Smith. LMN is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization which means contributions could be tax-deductible.
LMN’s mentors come from every sector in the legal profession, including private practice, in-house, nonprofit, and the government. They also have mentors from attorneys in top companies and law firms including:
- Perkins Coie
- DLA Piper
- Sullivan & Cromwell
- Winston & Strawn
- Kirkland & Ellis
- Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
- Reed Smith
- Greenberg Traurig
- Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
- Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
- Ropes & Gray
- Shearman & Sterling
- Wells Fargo
- BP America
- Santander Bank
- Warner Music
- Credit Suisse
- Shell Oil Company
- Mercedes-Benz USA
To date, LMN has matched over 1,000 law students and newly admitted attorneys with mentors in their preferred localities and fields of legal practice.
LMN will offer to supplement existing mentorship programs at law schools, bar associations, and other professional events. Eventually, they plan to offer online virtual networking events, and tips on job searches, among others.
So what is in it for potential mentors? There are personal benefits to being a mentor, primarily enhancing your personal brand. You will have meaningful, professional relationships with people who will surely reciprocate your kindness in the future. But LMN takes it further by allowing mentors to connect with other attorneys, in-house counsel, and other professionals. This can translate into business development opportunities as well.
Founding member Matt Schwartz has been successful finding and hiring lateral attorneys through LMN and it was a chance for attorneys to give back. In his words:
Mentoring provides firms with a pool of potential attorney talent they may not have previously met and DLA Piper has been fortunate to hire several of my mentees in the past year. In addition, our focus on mentoring has been a differentiating factor in recruiting lateral attorneys who have come in through other channels. Attorneys are more likely to stay and thrive at DLA Piper due to our commitment to both internal and external mentoring. Most importantly, mentoring is a way for transactional lawyers in particular to do something positive for their community that has a limited time and energy scope but that can make a major impact on the lives of a mentee. Being a lawyer is a demanding job that can be mentally and physically draining at times, but I feel re-invigorated every time I speak with a mentee knowing I have made a positive impact on their life and career.
Over the years, I have seen mentorship programs come and go. Most of the mentees I have talked to have been dissatisfied with these programs for being somewhat disorganized, not attracting the right people, and for not providing the career guidance they hoped to get. Because of this, most people tend to find mentors on their own. The mentors they meet have a wealth of invaluable practice experience but may not necessarily have connections to the people who can help them achieve their career goals.
The Legal Mentor Network is an ambitious project that attempts to fill this gap. With its large network of attorneys from reputable organizations serving as mentors and career development programs for mentees, it has the potential to disrupt antiquated recruiting practices and allow both mentors and mentees to benefit professionally.
Steven Chung is a tax attorney in Los Angeles, California. He helps people with basic tax planning and resolve tax disputes. He is also sympathetic to people with large student loans. He can be reached via email at [email protected]. Or you can connect with him on Twitter (@stevenchung) and connect with him on LinkedIn.