The Importance of Mentoring: How Strong is Your Network?

I’m passionate about helping other female lawyers flourish in the legal profession and one of the most powerful ways that women can support each other is to serve as mentors to other females in their chosen industries.

I am proud and happy to be ‘mentor-rich’. My array of mentors include trial attorney mentors, networking mentors, style mentors, judicial mentors, and rainmaking mentors. These women and men have been instrumental in guiding me through the first nine years of practice, allowing me to land in the wonderful place I am today. Some of my mentors have played small but important roles in my life, and others have changed its direction completely.

A mentoring story…

 

As an undergraduate student, I was involved in the planning of an Alumni Law Day. One of the guests was an esteemed Chicago trademark attorney and I was tasked to pick her up from the airport. I was mildly irritated at this prospect being that it cut into my…um…studying time, but I shouldered through the 90-minute drive to the airport to escort our prized speaker back to campus.

I was prepared to be miserable and suffer through dry, forced conversation until she was safely tucked away at the campus inn. I could not have been more wrong. To say the very least, we hit it off straight away. We chatted the entire time about my aspirations to be a lawyer, her experiences in the practice of law, including being in one of the first classes of women to graduate from her law school and many other subjects.

The next day we met again for lunch and at the end, my new mentor asked me if I had considered applying to her law school alma mater, Chicago- Kent. I had not but the next thing I knew I was in Chicago, staying with my mentor and visiting my future law school. This wasn’t the only way that my mentor changed my life – although recently retired, she continues to share her experiences as a practitioner, advice on how to handle tricky situations and support when I need a cheerleader. Despite being one of the busiest attorneys I have ever met, this woman dedicated time and energy to me – a young woman from Ohio that she did not have any reason to help – and consequently changed my life.

We don’t have to be at the beginning of our careers to have a mentor and we don’t have to be at or near the end to serve as one.

At all stages of our careers, we can use the support of another woman who shares our experience and love of our chosen career. Nor does mentorship have to be a time-consuming endeavor- some of my mentors and I have quick phone calls, emails or coffee when time permits, but I know they are there and I know they support me. In turn, I have hired four female associates during my years in leadership of my law firm. I have served as a mentor to a woman through the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois and I regularly accept coffee invitations from law students or attorneys looking to connect. Although I know I am doing something good for the mentee, I also benefit from these exchanges because they invigorate me in my practice and remind me of why I started out on this path to begin with – because I wanted to make a difference.

In this digital age where most human contact involves looking at a ‘newsfeed,’ it’s understandable that most people feel disengaged and isolated. Therefore, it’s important that we do not allow the community that we have built to fall prey to separation. Women must continue to foster relationships that provide support, hope and transfer our knowledge and power so that the presence of women in leadership of law firms matches our presence in the legal field. We are much more likely to succeed as friends than as detached individuals or worse yet, foes.

So in closing, I challenge you – whether you are a graduate or CEO – to reach out to two people – one that you would like to mentor and one that you would like to mentor you.

Lyndsay Markley

Chicago-based attorney, Lyndsay Markley (www.lmarkleylaw.com) has dedicated her legal practice to fighting on behalf of persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others. Lyndsay set up her own law practice in February 2014 and previous to this, was an equity shareholder at another established Chicago law firm. Her 2015 accolades include 10 Best Under 40 status from the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys, Premier 100 Trial Attorney status from the American Academy of Trial Attorneys and Illinois’ Rising Star status from Super Lawyers. Connect with @LyndsayMarkley on Twitter.

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