Mentoring in the Post-Pandemic Era
By Brijesh Patel, Student Education and Admission to the Bar Committee
Over the past few years, the legal profession has changed quite significantly. The notion that an attorney needs to be sitting at a desk in the office has been dispelled by the pandemic forcing companies, firms, and governmental offices to adapt and allow hybrid and remote working. In speaking to my colleagues in the legal profession, most all agreed that the hybrid and remote working environments did not impact their productivity, but rather improved it. Attorneys were able to save commute time and bill more, produce more work product, and use the extra time towards work/life balance.
Though, depending on who you ask, you may get differing opinions as to whether certain intangibles, such as collaboration and collegiality, particularly in a legal office setting, have been negatively impacted. Both collaboration and collegiality are vital to mentoring, especially in the post-pandemic era because of many offices allowing hybrid and remote working environments. While the post-pandemic working environments have evolved, so has mentoring.
Prior to the pandemic, it was much easier for a seasoned attorney to walk over to a newer attorney’s office, check in, provide guidance and explanations, and assist on matters; however, the post-pandemic era has forced both mentors and mentees to adapt. Both, respectfully, must now make even more of a conscious effort to provide and receive value.
For me personally, I find it incredibly important to develop rapport with all attorneys in the office, but especially newer ones. Developing rapport leads to building a level of trust, which is the foundation of any relationship. If one finds that you care about them on a personal level, it will make the mentorship that much more valuable because the attorney will be able to approach mentors for help and guidance with less hesitation. I also make it a goal of mine to check in on the newer attorneys in the office at least a couple of times a week and to be available even when I am working remotely, whether by phone or Teams. When a newer attorney knows that he/she has access to your help and guidance without remote working environment being an impediment, the attorney is more likely take advantage of your willingness to help him/her when needed.
However, mentoring is not only imperative within the office, but also important for The Florida Bar and local bar associations to embrace the importance of it by offering programs and services and empowering attorneys in the legal profession to take advantage of the value mentorship programs can provide. Both The Florida Bar and local bar associations can provide access to a network of attorneys who are willing to serve as mentors and those are who in need of one. Use the resources available to you because our profession depends on it.
Brijesh Patel is a Senior Assistant County Attorney at the Seminole County Attorney’s Office practicing in the area of city, county, and local government law.