The learning curve for young lawyers is steep. You not only have to learn the law, but must also balance speed with accuracy. Early on you are encouraged to “take as much time as you need.” However, this honeymoon period quickly tapers off and is replaced by the harried inquiry “Do you have it yet?”
A work process mentor can help you learn to manage deadline pressure without sacrificing quality or your peace of mind, and is one of the 8 mentors a junior attorney should have. Work process encompasses skills such as time management, professionalism, work ethic and initiative, teamwork, and diplomacy.
Your work process mentor does not have to be another attorney. Frankly, long-tenured secretaries and paralegals are more efficient by leaps and bounds than any 1st or 2nd year associate. f you go this route, keep in mind that your über-efficient mentor is responsible for meeting his or her own deadlines and may not be able to step away from their desk to help you manage yours. So, treat your work process mentor to lunch. You can both take a break from the office while you are learning.
So, what do you ask during lunch? Below are seven questions you must ask your work process mentor.
- Who are the behind-the-scenes people (e.g., human resources, travel, accounting, copying/word processing, library, facilities, etc.) that every junior associate should know? Why are they the go-to people?
- What is the most common task you find that young lawyers fail to delegate? fail to take the lead on?
- How do you figure out and keep track of attorneys’ work preferences/pet peeves (e.g., document formatting, communication preferences, etc.)?
- Are you familiar with organizational systems of other attorneys? Which seem to work best?
- Can you name an attorney who is well regarded for giving credit and showing appreciation to others? Why and how has this person become so?
- How do you handle the competing demands of work and home life? Which approaches to time management have been the most successful at this firm?
- How have attorneys effectively used their downtime?
What must-ask questions do you have for your mentor? Please share them with us in the comments.
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