CDF's Firm Managing, Marie DiSante, recently provided commentary for the Orange County Lawyer article "Mentoring and Training New Firm Lawyers in the 2020s."
"As we attempt to navigate our new work paradigm, newer lawyers will suffer if we are not proactively mentoring and developing them. To say that the pandemic upended our lives is a massive understatement. So much has changed in the past two and a half years. Notably, the way we work has changed—both where and how we work—for the foreseeable future and perhaps forever. No longer is everyone at their law firm's office all day, every day. A significant percentage of attorneys and staff are working remotely, either wholly or partially.
There certainly are advantages to remote or hybrid work arrangements: more flexibility, better work-life balance, and saving commuting time, to name a few. But there are challenges as well, including and especially the training and development of newer lawyers. In an office environment, often such training and development is organic—attorneys walk down the hall to discuss a legal issue, a strategy question, or an ethical conundrum, or simply to have a check-in chat. In a remote work environment, this type of training and development may not happen at all or, if it does, it is less informal and spontaneous.
I know that I benefitted immensely from the mentorship of many. The mentoring I received was far more than learning the law or the finer points of litigation. More importantly, my mentors trained me on professionalism and ethics, dealing with opposing counsel, communications with the court, how to treat and appreciate staff, and simply being the best lawyer that I could be. Much of this occurred naturally and without pre-planning — from a lunch or last-minute happy hour, to just being at the office when a discussion or impromptu meeting would develop.
How do we capture such development and mentoring in the current environment? Because we are all in uncharted waters, and there is no one right way, I reached out to several managing partners and firm leaders-from small firms to large ones—to get their input. Not surprisingly, all agreed on the importance of training and development, and their firms have set up varying protocols to best address the issue for their particular firm. Reading their protocols might give you an idea about how best to cultivate training and development in your firm and how to make the most of your firm's office environment."
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