Mentoring Myths

We asked some top BC lawyers if they agreed with these common assumptions about mentoring:


MYTH: Mentoring is only needed at the start
of your career

Someone can benefit from a mentor at all stages of their career. I’d like to think the Chief Justice probably says she has a mentor or two. Whether you are a first year associate or articling student, or the most senior partner in a 600 person firm, I suspect everyone can point to someone who is their quiet sounding board, their person, and that’s valuable. You should never feel afraid to reach out and ask for help at any stage of your career.

~ Miranda Lam Partner, McCarthy Tétrault LLP



MYTH: You only need one career mentor

From my experience, that’s really not the case. It’s taken a village to get me through law school and practicing, and it’s a whole bunch of different mentors. Someone who’s a peer, someone who’s in your practice area whom you look up to, someone who’s senior at the bar who you can go to with ethics or professional questions, and then someone you can help out. It’s not just one relationship that makes you successful and supports you.

~ Christine Murray Cassels Murray Family & Estates Law



MYTH: To have a successful mentoring relationship, you need to find your perfect match

I talk to a lot of mentoring partners at the outset of a formal mentoring program, and I find that the most reassuring thing to say is ‘chances are, this isn’t going to be the love of your life.’ Most of us, over the course of our careers have, if we’re lucky, perhaps 2 or 3 people who were instrumental in helping us find our path and vision, who gave us a big opportunity, who saw us through that dark time. They’re meant to be rare - that yoda-like character. It’s important to remember that most of our supportive relationships are more modest than that. Think of your formal mentoring program as a skills program, one which you enter to gain support and learn how to work with someone to get that support. So don’t feel upset if you haven’t made a deep connection, you can still get a lot out of the experience.

~ Andrea (Verwey) Rayment Professional Development Director, Clark Wilson LLP



MYTH: Mentoring needs to be a formal relationship

Mentoring is more than that, it’s multi-faceted. Sometimes an interaction over lunch, coffee or some unexpected interaction can have as big an impact on the person you’re speaking to as a formal mentoring relationship can. So what I would say to people is look for those opportunities. It’s about being genuine in your interest [in] other people, about really listening and responding on a human level based on your own experience.

~ Carmen Theriault Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP



MYTH: Mentoring is too much of a time commitment

I typically meet with my mentee about once every 4-6 weeks for a dinner, lunch or coffee meeting, whatever works best. The other time commitment is regular email and phone as issues arise. Again, this is infrequent and usually relatively short. A part of my practice is also to send out regular check-in emails. So all in all, I certainly haven’t found that a mentoring relationship takes up an unacceptable amount of time.

~ Joan Gordon Arbitration, Mediation & Dispute Resolution Services