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Take the broad path

November 19, 2009

Here in Vancouver this week the Canadian Bar Association’s Women Lawyers Forum held another successful event.  Linda Robertson, President of the Women Lawyers Forum, kindly offered the following summary of the event:

“The Women Lawyers Forum held their Second Annual Awards Lunch on November 17th and it was as successful and inspiring as last year’s event. There were 175 in attendance at the Sutton Place Hotel and the feeling in the room was one of warmth and enthusiasm.

Two outstanding women lawyers were recognized – Kathryn Berge, QC received the Award of Excellence and Brenda Edwards received the first Debra Van Ginkel, QC Mentoring Award. Both women received standing ovations when they went up to accept their awards. The speeches by the nominators and the recipients highlighted how far women lawyers have come over the past decade and the power of mentoring. Brenda ended her speech by saying that when asked how she finds the time to mentor so many women, she said that “mentoring feeds my soul.”

The guest speaker was Carole Taylor who has recently joined BLG as a Senior Business Advisor. She spoke about her personal journey from a teenager working in broadcasting to Minister of Finance and all the stops along the way. She encouraged women to take the broad path in their careers not being afraid of accepting positions for which they may not feel entirely ready and to look at all the opportunities in the community and elsewhere that bring a diversity of experience. Too often we focus just on the next step along the promotional road and not what we can learn outside our jobs.

It was an inspiring event because of the outstanding women present at the podium and their openness is telling us about their personal career paths and how it lead to their success.”

As a coach I am often asked about what make the “best investments” of non-billable time.  As Carole Taylor underlined in her presentation – it is valuable to take the broad path.  The broad path means to look for opportunities to learn new things and broaden your horizons.  It is important to stretch a little beyond your immediate knowledge base and skill set.   

My thanks to Linda Robertson for sharing some of the highlights of the The Women Lawyers Forum Second Annual Awards Lunch with us.

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Recruiting and retaining the new generation of lawyers

October 22, 2007

I was attending a marketing event last week and we all got to talking about the reaction of the old guard to the new generation of lawyers entering law firms today.  One of the attendees Dorothy Sitek shared one take on the generation gap that she in turn picked up from a presentation by business coach Karen Elliot:

These professionals entering the work force today are your children.  You were the ones who raised them.  And how did you raise them?  You raised them to contribute to the conversation at the dinner table.  You raised them to have an opinion, and to know how to express it.  You raised them to be confident and to value themselves.

What are these new associates looking for?  More then anything mentorship, training, and a place where they can contribute and where they feel valued.

Our law firms haven’t traditionally been great at these things.  So as Blane Prescott of Hildebrand writes, if you really want to invest in associate retention at your law firm the first place to invest is in training your partners to be good mentors. And the second is in investing in training programs and coaching for your associates to give them the support that they value.

My view is that money becomes the bottom line for associates only when other needs are not being met.  More than anything these new associates are looking for a place to put down roots and build a practice.  The important question this raises for senior partners out to bring in talented new recruits:  “Does your law firm provide fertile ground for growing a practice? “

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Mentors – can’t have enough of them

May 16, 2007

Yesterday I attended an outstanding seminar on mentorship hosted by Arlyn Reid and presented by Laura Reid for the Legal Marketing Association Vancouver Chapter.  The handouts and PowerPoint slides were detailed and packed with great ideas.  They will be up on the LMA Vancouver website later this week.

I walked away from the lunch with a number of great new ideas on the subject.  But here is my number one take-away from the session:

Mentors – don’t stop at one, have three, have four, have as many as you need. 

That was a very new concept for me.  I was always of the view that if you are lucky you have one mentor – and by mentor I mean someone who is actively playing that role in your life as opposed to someone who was assigned the role but doesn’t show up for the job!

Laura has a number of mentors.  Recognizing that no one person has all the answers Laura has collected an assortment of mentors with different strengths and perspectives.  For instance she has a hard-nosed business mentor who can be counted on to give her the “reality check”.  She has a creative mentor for bouncing ideas around with.  And she has a number of other mentors as well. 

I’ve wasted no time and am immediately expanding my team of mentors while taking on some more mentees of my own. 

If you are interested in bringing some mentors into your own life, take a moment to review the handouts on the LMA Vancouver site, and contact those people who you would like to have as mentors.  Most people are honored to be asked.  If you are practicing at a law firm that assigns a mentor, you don’t have to stop there.  Consider taking the initiative to add another mentor with a different skill set to your mix and double your opportunities for learning.  Mentorship relationships can be a great source of professional development. 

“A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study.” (Chinese proverb)

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