The Successful Lawyer: You Need a Mentor – Tosin Ajose Popoola

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“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants[1]

Dear Colleagues,

When on a journey to an unfamiliar destination, the logical thing to do is to seek help, guidance and direction. Without these, you are bound to experience difficulty, waste more time and resources, get frustrated and ultimately become depressed.

Imagine you’ve been assigned in Chambers for a matter outside jurisdiction or to attend a meeting at a destination you have never been before, stretch it further and imagine that the above assignment takes you out of town. Also imagine that senior colleagues in the office have gone to that same destination prior to your own assignment. What would you do? Would you talk to one of these senior colleagues who have gone to the place  for help? Or would you rather use the help of a google map?  In this technology driven age it would be understandable if you opt to use a map. But, how about expectations at the court or meeting? Would you also attempt to seek help from google or would you rather ask your senior colleagues, knowing that they had been to the same place and have had prior experiences?

Let us  apply the above imagination to our career journey as legal practitioners. Would you prefer to seek clarification and get help from seniors or would you rather make your mistakes and learn from them? The danger in the later is that there are some mistakes that people never recover from. I would rather learn from the mistakes and experiences of others. The only way to do this, would be to have a mentor. As a lawyer hoping to become successful, you need mentors. Some already have mentors in their faith. This is great but as a lawyer,  in addition to having spiritual or social mentors, you need a career mentor, if possible in the  area of your specialty or in the area you intend to specialize in. Don’t forget the general saying that: “a man will look and act like his circle of friends.”

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Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but he or she must have certain areas of expertise[2] It’s a relationship that thrives on transparency, communication, mutual respect and the yearning to add value; the success of this relationship is dependent on the parties’ ability to invest resources, time and unwavering commitment.

A mentor plays 3[3] significant roles; first, a mentor is a Consultant who gives  specialized recommendations based on wealth of industry and knowledge, secondly, a mentor is a Counsellor who provides the needed guidance enabling a mentee to figure out the right course of action individually and lastly, a mentor plays the role of a Cheerleader who supports and provide the needed enthusiasm

The benefits of Mentorship are numerous and cannot be  exhausted in an article of this nature, however few of such benefits are highlighted below:

  1. Exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking consequent upon robust conversations and brutally honest brainstorming sessions.
  2. Guidance on professional development and advancement.
  3. Opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge.
  4. Increased visibility and recognition.
  5. Improved performance in the work place.[4]
  6. Opportunity to share difficult working moments and experience with a trusted ally.
  7. Expansion of network.

Mentorship fast tracks the journey to success. As a lawyer aspiring to build a successful career, you must ensure that there is at least one person who has attained enviable heights in the area you wish to specialize in who you look up to. If Alternative Dispute Resolution is your forte, get a mentor in that field, if you’re aiming for the bench, please get a mentor at the bench, I know that the bench appears to be unapproachable, but the truth is that, if we conduct ourselves properly and our work output speaks of industry and discipline, (for my article on the Power of Industry and Discipline, please click on this link)  it can be achieved.

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To highlight the importance of choosing a mentor, I had a conversation with three colleagues. I asked them their thoughts on mentorship in the legal profession. I would leave you with their thoughts.

Sesi Hundeyin believes that mentorship in the legal profession is not as widespread as it ought to be. He is of the view that mentorship should be a relationship which ought to start from the work place where senior colleagues put junior colleagues through assigned tasks.

On the role of a mentor, he holds the view that a mentor should be able to offer guidance and direction to a mentee on choosing a career path, based on passion, skills and vision. He regrettably noted that  this seldom happens.

His mentor is Mr. Olawale Aro, a senior partner in Arrowsmith Partners, Lagos. He describes their relationship as a mutually beneficial one which did not happen by chance. He says it was born out of an intentional and deliberate effort. While his mentor provides him with needed support, guidance and direction on complex legal issues which are beyond his capacity, he, in turn, gives value by offering to help his mentor with assignments from time to time. Theirs, is a relationship built on mutual respect and understanding. On his final thoughts, he believes that mentorship is very key to the growth of the legal profession. “Older lawyers should mentor younger lawyers and younger lawyers should mentor law students” he stated.

Bunmi Ojo names Tolulope Olatunji, a lead partner at Edge Hill Solicitors as his mentor. In his opinion mentorship in the legal profession is lost. He recalled the admonition given at the Nigerian Law School to all law students to seek out successful senior colleagues whom they can attach themselves to and learn the rudiments of law and how these are forgotten rather too quickly. He places the blame on both the mentors and the mentees and noted that in reality, the relationship usually becomes that of master- servant with the ultimate aim of getting the latter’s job done. He wishes that this very important aspect of the profession is revived and developed.

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Damilola Mumuni believes that mentorship is good, as it allows mentees to learn from the mistakes of their mentors and reach set milestones faster. He names Pastor Poju Oyemade, Pastor Sam Adeyemi and David Otunla as his mentors. His role model is the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi.

Oluwatosin Ajose Popoola, ‘Tosin is a lawyer, content creator and blogger, she is passionate about law and its numerous instruments. She can be contacted at: tosinajose22@gmail.com.

Footnotes

[1] Isaac Newton

[2] En.wikipedia.org>wiki>mentorship

[3] Ye.community.com/ar/blog/how-mentors-bring-advice-to-mentorship

[4] Original list culled from https://www.michaelpage.co.in/advice/management-advice/leadership/what-are-benefits-mentoring. The culled list has been edited by the author of this work.

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