Regardless of tense competition and challenges, legal profession still remains one of the most needed and up-to-date professions. Every year, thousands of secondary school graduates come to doorsteps of Universities teaching law specialists. However, after years and years of exhausting studies in “law”, only few manage to find their niche in the legal field. As a rule, these lucky ones find themselves working in a firm with a mentorship program, as a means to train and adapt their staff. At the early stage of any company’s development, it is its manager who accepts orders, settles all the problems, defines portfolio of services, prices, etc. This model is working at the initial stage only. If the firm keeps to this model later, then its future is vague. It is essential for further development of the legal firm to have a leader who is placed in the center not to hinder development of others. If the employees see that everything depends on one person or several directors, then the overall growth would be hardly possible.
What to select?
One of the methods of educating and training the staff when a more experienced worker shares his knowledge with his younger counterparts over certain period of time, is called mentoring. Close to it stands coaching that means instructing, training in the form of support and guidance of a person until he/she gets the result. The principle difference between these two concepts is the level of complexity of the tasks. At the initial stage, it is required to determine the method, time and the goal to be chosen by the partner (head) as a principle management method of the law firm staff.
An important advantage of these methods compared to corporate training and other specialized educational programs is that they are customized, in other words, they take into account individual specifics of every employee.
Before introducing mentoring or coaching in a law firm, the goal and tasks for applying these methods should be set up. The goals should be concrete and reachable. Upon completion of every program, the results should be analyzed and, if necessary, certain stages corrected.
The practice shows that mentorship is the most cost-effective system for the beginners. To be quickly accommodated and engaged in business processes, new employees need to be given all knowledge, experience and accepted standards as quickly as possible and in the most comprehensive way by their colleagues who are highly evaluated in the firm. In this case, the mentors will act as senior colleagues who will instruct junior colleagues explaining processes and specifics of the team work as a whole or of a certain department. In other words, senior colleagues will teach their younger counterparts what they know. At the same time, the mentor has to formulate the main goal of education and discuss with the colleague what the latter is expected to be able to do after the program is complete. Designed in details and duly developed, the mentorship program increases performance of staff training programs and allows for comprehensive evaluation of all firm’s staff.
As a rule, the role of the mentor is carried out by an owner of the firm, its managing partners, or heads of departments. It is worth saying that the scheme “boss – subordinate” in this context is not an obligatory condition. The most essential here is to clearly declare the expected outcome and realistic timeframe. The most important advantage of the system of mentorship is that none of these methods requires direct financial investments and may be efficiently applied in the period of severe crises when HR-budget needs to be cut down. With balanced process launched, the staff management system will be equally successful in the companies of various sizes and at any stage of their development.
Influence and Encourage
It is important for the co-workers acting as mentors and coaches to be at least several steps ahead of their trainees. The former ones need to be aware of their role model function for their colleagues. To be successful in mentoring, the employees chosen to mentor should be capable of influencing and encouraging others.
Efficiency of the system as a whole depends on correctly organized communication system between all participants of the process and on shared understanding of goals and tasks by the trainers as well as the trainees. Prospective mentor should have excellent communication skills, be capable of setting tasks, controlling their performance and making analysis of the results.
Useful to know that in some firms the duties of every employee having reached position of a senior specialist include obligatory mentoring. Regarded in this way, the mentoring plays role of motivation as for more experienced colleagues the role of a mentor becomes a recognition sign of their achievements and promotes respect to them of other staff members.
Coaching Costs Money
Coaching is the most efficient method of training for mid-level and high level managers. In this case, the main purpose of coaching is to promote personal development of the employees. This method has lately become quite popular among top managers of leading world countries. its Coaching is based on individual approach exercised regularly, this being its principle difference from other methods. Experts find it the most efficient method of discovering professional and business potential of a person (employee).
To apply coaching method, at first, the employee’s qualities should be evaluated, based on which a personal trainer (coach instructor) together with the employee will develop his “success profile”. According to the “profile”, further strategy is planned for the employee as a specialist. During the entire process, the employee is consulted by the coach-instructor, is given advice and recommendations.
The practice shows that coaching method is efficient when the company lives through structural changes, launching or introduction of a new product, etc. Besides, this method is essential for employees vested with powers to develop constructive management and communication style and to make manager’s leading positions stronger and his skills and competencies more variable.
Usually, coaching is used mostly by representatives of senior management as their capabilities when estimated and applied may effect the performance of the company to the most degree. This method is highly required for training of other employees, the company’s directors (managers) may act as coach-trainers that is cost-effective, as coaching is an expensive method. At the same time, experience and professionalism of the managers should be taken into account as lack of competences and knowledge in business may become principle reasons of coaching methods failing in reaching expected level.
Attorney, partner in VB PARTNERS
Success in legal business can be gained due to synergy of efforts of all team members only. Every staff member should meet company’s standards and have relevant level of knowledge and competence. It is why mentoring and training of young lawyers by partners and senior employees plays important role in development of a legal firm, and effects quality of services provided. Mentoring takes forms of a partner’s communication with lawyers starting with correct execution of legal documents and ending with bringing the lawyers up to the company’s level of spirit, standards, and style. To quickly adapt to a new environment, new employees are to be transferred accumulated knowledge and experience as quick as possible, but at the same time as correctly and clearly as possible. Mentors need to be aware that they are role models for their colleagues. So, capability to influence people, inspire them and availability of leader’s qualities are the “must” elements for successful mentorship.
In small-size firms (in particular, in VB PARTNERS), responsibility for mentorship as a rule is vested on one or two partners, for whom it becomes one of the partner duty of responsibility. In big law firms every partner in charge of development of certain practice is a mentor to his subordinates.
At a certain stage, capability of a lawyer to be a mentor to younger colleagues is a qualification test for his further carrier promotion. As without such capability, he would hardly build a good team. A senior lawyer can be hardly imagined without his team, and a counselor or a partner still less possible.
Sincere interest of a senior colleague in apprehensive development of younger colleagues is a key factor to successful mentoring. It is a kind of investment that can yield good dividends when made diligently and skillfully. Like any other investment, mentorship requires certain amount of senior colleague’s resources (intellectual, emotional efforts, time), and may as well fail. However, prospective projects are worth investing into.
It’s important to understand that mentorship is about being ready to help not only in professional matters. Any true mentor understands that a lawyer with personal problems is less efficient. Therefore, the mentor will be tactful and understandable in these matters too.
Managing partner, «Trusted Advisors» law firm
In my opinion, the idea of mentorship is quite commonly accepted in Ukrainian law firms, although a lot depends on a business model followed by a certain firm. Formal procedures of mentorship implementation and development were borrowed by our market from our more advanced Western colleagues where mentorship is a constant attribute.
For Trusted Advisors, human capital is a principal value, so we approve of and support the idea of mentorship. Young professionals always have possibility to ask their more experiences colleagues for advice or help. During adaptation period in our firm, every new employee may address his mentor who is not necessarily his immediate superior. Such additional load on senior employees gives obligatory results, as our young colleagues are more quickly and efficiently engaged in the working process and in the firm’s life in general.
Counselor, «Pravovy Alyans» law company
Development of a legal firm goes hand in hand with development of its staff. Partners, lawyers of all levels and assistants have to permanently enhance their knowledge, look for and create new opportunities. And developing oneself is as important as teaching others.
Our firm gives regular support to students and beginning specialists. Earlier, we used to hold competitions among students, the winners were offered chance to practice and later be employed with “Pravovy Alyans”. In 2007, Lidiya Sanzharovska-Hurlach, a student of one of the universities, won the contest, and upon graduation started working for out firm. She has been working for 6 years now, and has become a leading specialist of one of practices, that allows her to confidently build up her career.
These days, we support students through the Bar Association of Ukraine, cooperate with leading educational institutions, lecturing on professional topics and on issues of a law firm management. This active attitude enables “Pravovy Alliance” to find active, ambitious, talented and profession oriented students.
To be a member of a law firm team is not the easiest way, especially for young specialists, who are involved in various fields and practices and are not related to one partner or a lawyer. Young lawyers are guaranteed to be given various tasks and lessons of internal communication specifics.
In our firm, a new specialist has a mentor and a curator whom this young specialist may address at any time and with any of his questions. Our partners’ doors are always open to all employees and, in particular, to young specialists who need more attention. “Pravovy Allians” company is successful in providing such assistance.
Andrii Hvozdestkyi, senior lawyer of dispute resolution and court proceedings practice
JSC «Spenser and Kauffmann»
Spenser & Kauffmann firm is especially attentive to young specialist. Today, we offer and implement wide opportunities for students and graduates ranging from practice to employment with different option of carrier growth. As a teaching method in our work with young talents, we prefer involving them in a team work. It is like teaching a child to swim: first, you walk the child into deep water and then let the child swim independently. We give various tasks to our trainees and lawyer assistants making no stress at an initial functionality and competence of such young lawyer. In the course of complicated work, the young colleagues show their best qualities, and mentors can see for what kind of tasks these novices fit better and what of their skills should be still enhanced.
We understand that ambitious young people find it important to show up and be seen, feel oneself important and make their input into ultimate result of the team’s work. As practice shows, lawyers working with systematic and large-scope cases due to their experience and immersion in the project often loose capability to glance from to other side or notice the details, which if paid due attention would be crucial for success of the case. Young employees are often involved in the projects because they may breathe new life in the project. We have repeatedly seen it. Of cause, as a consequence such colleague obtains professional recognition and progress.
We understand that young specialists joining the team make its future; therefore we make all efforts to educate them. Building up an effective team is possible only when everyone is paid due attention. Individual approach helps every member in such big family be seen by the company, and for employees to feel themselves important and useful for the common cause.