Your Mentoring Program – Are You Implementing or Integrating?

Post authored by Gretchen L. Cady

Implementing a mentoring program is an involved process. There’s the organizing, the matching process, the kick-off meeting, the tracking, the follow-up contact and the follow-up to the follow-up. And the paperwork . . . oh, the paperwork. It’s enough to make any Program Administrator want to only complete the necessary steps and move on. If the mentoring program is a success: it will cover the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s requirements, and the attorneys will earn their IL CLE credits.

But what if a slight change in thought could move you past simply meeting the requirements and on to a more fulfilling and lasting experience for associates and partners alike, with less work for you?

Beyond Parroting

To change your mindset from implementing to integrating, you will need to adjust how you—and your participants—think about mentoring.

Traditional models of mentoring focus on the mentee’s career development. Activities and discussions center around the mentor’s wisdom, experience, and teaching how-tos and what-ifs.

New models of mentoring, including the Commission on Professionalism’s lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program, do something different: they focus on supporting the mentee’s goals and experiences. This puts the mentee in the driver’s seat for planning activities and discussions, which values both the mentor’s and mentee’s thoughts and experiences.

The Road from Required to Desired

With attorneys balancing billable hours, business development, pro bono work and personal lives, you need to encourage them to integrate and think outside the box (aka their offices).

Here are some suggestions to help get you started:

* Take a cooking class together and talk about how you both work to achieve work-life balance.

* Watch a legal movie together and discuss the issues, connecting them to your practices.

* Volunteer at a non-legal charitable organization, like a homeless shelter, food bank or cancer center, to make pro bono work more personal and concrete.

* Run, walk, volunteer, or be a cheerleader at an event like Race Judicata. The fresh air and live music are great for recharging! Plus, it’s an opportunity to casually network and socialize with around 4,000 other people linked to the legal community.

* Take an online personality test. Discuss both of your results and how certain traits may affect client interactions and legal practice.

* Attend or volunteer at a Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP) event. Discuss the mental health issues lawyers face, how you both relate to them, how you can prevent and treat them, and how you can help others.

But What About the Less Work for You Part?

Picture this. On your right, there is a paint-by-number kit with the picture, a paint brush, and five paint colors laid out for you. A tenured art professor will be looking over your shoulder while you work, giving critique by referencing a master’s class art manual.

On your left, there is a blank canvas, numerous paint brushes, and every paint color imaginable. Every few hours or so, someone who minored in art will check in to find out if you want more brushes, need help with techniques, or have questions about the paints.

Which project excites you more?

Will you enjoy the paint-by-number experience enough to want to keep doing it the same way for years, or would you rather have the opportunity to learn, while being creative with your pictures, brushes, and paint colors?

This example illustrates the difference between implementation and integration.

When someone is excited about a project, here, your mentoring program, it doesn’t take much oversight to get them involved and to keep them on track.

That’s not to say you won’t still have to handle logistics, but the program will evolve  organically, with less prompting.

Cultural Integration – It’s Not Just for Millennials

“Fostering cultural integration” may sound like the latest millennial buzz phrase, but it is important at all levels of law experience.

We’re human. On some level we all want to belong, to make a difference, and to feel connected to each other. Yet, at the same time, we want to retain the experiences and characteristics that make us unique. These ideals of sharing, exchanging and staying true to yourself form the basis of cultural integration and should be a cornerstone of mentoring.

For new associates finding their way in practice, experienced associates trying to adapt to a lateral move, veteran partners experiencing reverse mentoring, and legal employers striving to retain their people, cultural integration builds a sense of acceptance and value. It also provides a strong base for success for everyone.

Be Inspired! Get Involved! Be an Inspiration!

If you’re ready for an alternative to sitting in front of your computer for hours to earn CLE, consider mentoring. After completing the one-year program, mentees and mentors will each earn 6.0 Professional Responsibility credits–including the specialty hours required as of July 2017.

Need more inspiration? The Commission on Professionalism’s website encourages new admittees to seek out a mentoring relationship, spark new ideas for mentoring meetings, and provide best practices for Program Administrators.

The Commission’s lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program page provides many resources for mentees, mentors, and Program Administrators. There, you’ll be able to find organizations that participate in the program, register to participate or apply to become a Sponsoring Organization.

About the Author

gretchen.jpgGretchen L. Cady is a CLE Coordinator at Schiff Hardin LLP. She has been a Program Administrator for the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s Mentoring Program since March 2013. She helps pair internal participants, leads orientation meetings, manages administrative requirements, and acts as the primary point-of-contact for the program.  In her role as CLE Coordinator, she manages course accreditations, compliance, and attorney licensing in over 30 jurisdictions. Gretchen is an active member of viGlobal’s Industry Expert Advisory Panel and the Chicago Professional Development Consortium. Before joining Schiff, Gretchen worked in the human and veterinary medical fields. Email Gretchen at

Schiff’s Facebook:

Schiff’s LinkedIn:

Leave a Reply