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Mentoring Opportunities for Today's Lawyers

Washington Lawyer
July/August 2006
By Kathryn Alfisi

At an April event held by the Women's Bar Association as part of its mentoring program, close to 30 attorneys filled a conference room at Howrey LLP to listen to Ellen Ostrow, founder of Lawyers Life Coach LLC, offer advice and answer questions about making career decisions. Ostrow dispensed such tips as, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll be following someone else's agenda" and, "You have to find what interests you... You need to know your values and what's important to you... You need to know your strengths."

The attorneys scribbled notes and asked questions. "How do you deal with taking a significant pay cut when changing jobs?" "How do you know when to stop thinking about change and actually take action?" "How do you deal with lack of experience when changing practice areas?" This scene may not appear to have much to do with the act of mentoring itself, but it illustrates the desire that attorneys, particularly young attorneys, have for career-related feedback and advice and the pervasiveness of job dissatisfaction, both of which have very much to do with mentoring.

As a career coach, Ostrow often advises her clients to put together a "personal advisory board" made up of various mentors, because not every individual on the board will be able to attend to the mentee's needs at any given moment, and the diversity of mentors will broaden the mentee's learning experience. "You might look to one person for help with your legal writing skills, another person for help with your business development skills, somebody for your trial advocacy skills, and someone else to help you figure out the politics of your organization," says Ostrow.


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