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At The Firm, you are often judged by the company you keep. Being seen in and around The Firm’s movers and rainmakers can propel your career. Caught dead anywhere in the vicinity of that partner who everyone (except that partner) knows is about to be moved out can severely damage your prospects for advancement. For the above reasons, you should put much care and effort into the picking of your law firm friends. Find out who’s who at The Firm and then strike up friendships with those who can advance your career. Meanwhile, shun those who might drag you down. The problem is that while you can pick your friends, you cannot pick your mentors. Mentors, or shadow attorneys, as they are called in some law firms, are senior lawyers who they (i.e., the recruiting committee) link up with either summer associates or junior associates who are new to The Firm. The idea is that these senior lawyers can show their juniors the ropes and help them climb their way up at The Firm. Sometimes that idea is a good one. Usually it is not. When you’re new to The Firm, it’s great to have a good mentor. More important, however, is for the mentor to have a good mentee. The mentor actually has a lot riding on the performance of his mentee. You want your summer associate or junior attorney to succeed so that you might score a few points. It’s success by association. On the other hand, it’s quite possible that you’ll have another strike against you if your mentee fails to measure up. Years from now, when you’re being considered for partnership, one of the people in a position to decide your future will bring up the fact that while you’re an excellent attorney, you were also the mentor of that loser of a first-year associate back in 2000. All because of him, you get dinged and have to go to another firm where you’ll be demoted to mentee status. The mentee selection process is rarely random. As a mentor, they typically try to hook you up with someone with whom you have something in common — same hometown, same law school, same desire to hang around attractive young people. Going into it, the lawyers as mentors don’t know much about the crop of new summer associates or first-years. It’s a real gamble as to how your person will perform. PERFORMANCE IS EVERYTHING As mentioned above, you generally want your mentee to perform well, and you will do what you can to see that this happens. You will sit down with the new or soon-to-be lawyer and go over office procedures, review his work before it is turned in, and provide good advice. None of this applies, however, in a certain situation. That is, if the mentee is less than a few years junior to you, wants to work in the same practice area as you, and, most importantly, is smarter and more talented than you. If this is the case, you must make sure that this person does not advance. Having failed as a mentor is much easier to deal with than an up-and-coming junior lawyer who may hamper your chances for partnership. You are threatened and you must deal with the threat in the following ways: Mentor Tips 1. Next time you screw up majorly on a work project and are about to be chastised by a senior partner, blame it on your mentee. This approach kills two birds with one stone. It gets you off the hook and embarrasses your mentee. 2. Implement the old donut pass trick. Tell the mentee that the shop downstairs gives free donuts to all summer associates. Tell him just to drop the name of the recruiting coordinator, and The Firm will pick up the bill. It’s an old trick but, remarkably, it holds up year after year. Once executed, the person in the group who falls for this gag automatically becomes the punchline of jokes all summer long. The career of the donut pass victim is over. 3. Use the mentee to do your dirty work. Summer and junior associates tend to be obedient, and you can use this to your advantage. Start them out by picking up your laundry and fetching your lunch. Then move on to more important things, such as stealing computer files and gathering inside information that you can use for your stock purchases. 4. Finally, when it gets closer to the time when The Firm is going to make its evaluation of your mentee, be sure to distance yourself from him. Refuse to return phone calls, delay reviewing documents and make yourself inaccessible. You know what I mean — treat him like a client. If all goes well, your mentee will end up working elsewhere, and your position at The Firm will be safe and maybe even enhanced. Then it’s time to wait for the new batch of mentees to come to The Firm. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist whose columns are distributed by American Lawyer Media and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected]

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