Mentoring Relationship Guidelines

The Women Lawyers Forum believes that one of the best ways to support women in the practice of law and ensure their continued and successful participation in the legal profession is through mentoring.

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Any woman lawyer or articling student in British Columbia who is a CBA and WLF member may participate in the Mentoring Program.  The program is also available to any foreign-trained woman lawyer who has started or completed the NCA process and is a CBA and WLF member.  Mentors may be practicing, non-practicing or retired members of the Law Society of BC.  The parties must enter into a Mentoring Agreement supplied by the Mentoring Committee if they wish to participate in the Mentoring Program.

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For those interested, the Mentoring Committee will match peers of similar years of experience to participate in the Peer Mentoring program. Peer mentoring follows essentially the same guidelines as ordinary mentoring, except that in peer mentoring; both parties should set out their learning goals and focus on assisting each other to reach them.

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The Mentoring Committee of the CBABC Women Lawyers Forum supports the Mentoring Program by defining program guidelines and agreements; encouraging participation in the program; matching mentoring pairs; providing support through follow-up, training or circulating mentoring information; sponsoring kick-off and closing celebration events; providing advice or guidance to Mentors and Mentees during the program; liaising with the CBA, and providing any other support that may be required to ensure that this program is a success.

The Mentoring Committee will not act as mediators or arbitrators if issues arise between the mentoring pairs that they cannot resolve themselves.  In the event of incompatibility, it will provide guidance to the participants and it may attempt to find another match if it is appropriate and other matches are available.

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The usual mentoring partnership will last for a period of one year unless the parties chose to end it sooner. The Mentoring Program will start in October and continue until the end of the following September.

The parties may continue with their mentoring relationship beyond the year-end if they choose, but any formal obligation on their part as well as the involvement of the Mentoring Committee will end after one year, save for the obligation of confidentiality which will remain.

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The parties should discuss their expectations for the mentoring partnership at the first meeting.

This should include:

  1. how frequently they will connect, and by what means;
  2. the goals of both for the year;
  3. the topics, both professional and personal, that the parties wish to discuss; and
  4. confidentiality requirements, including ethical considerations and Law Society responsibilities.

A frank discussion centered around what each party is expecting from the relationship, including any limitations on the relationship, is the single most important factor in making the relationship a success. When mentoring relationships break down, it is because either the parties do not commit to the time or they have different understandings about what will occur during the course of the mentoring year.

Mentees must be specific about what they hope to achieve through this mentoring relationship. The parties need to develop an open and honest relationship so that their expectations can be revisited throughout their time together. If either party is unhappy with how the mentoring is proceeding, they must feel comfortable addressing those concerns with the other party so that the issues can be resolved.

Mentors do not give legal advice nor can they be responsible for any advice that the Mentee uses in giving legal advice to a client.  The mentoring relationship is purely a developmental one for the Mentee and does not replace the need for the Mentee to consult appropriate legal advice or the Law Society before advising a client or before personally taking action.

Goals

Mentoring is a collaborative learning partnership where both the Mentor and the Mentee will benefit and learn from each other.  At the beginning of the mentoring relationship, the parties should set out the goals they would each like to achieve over the course of the year. Setting this out in writing will assist the parties to be clear on the expectations and the learning agenda of the Mentee and, if appropriate, the Mentor.

If the Mentor feels that she is not in the best position to assist the Mentee with her goals, the Mentor should advise the Mentee of this as soon as possible so that the Mentee can find a different Mentor or agree to seek that assistance from someone other than her Mentor. The parties should also advise the Mentoring Committee as soon as possible.

Frequency of Meetings

The parties are encouraged to meet at least once a month for a minimum of an hour either in person, over the phone, or electronically, as they decide. The parties will work out a meeting schedule on their own.

Scheduling these meetings in advance will help ensure that the meetings take place regularly. The parties are encouraged to contact each other whenever an issue arises for the Mentee that would benefit from the Mentor’s advice or guidance.

Several events are organized by the Mentoring Committee throughout the year for the benefit of matched pairs; these events offer the chance for pairs to not only meet with each other but to meet with and learn from other matched pairs.

Limits to relationship

Mentoring is not counseling.  Mentors do not have experience in recognizing or helping with issues such as suicide, depression, substance abuse or other serious medical conditions. Mentees are encouraged to seek independent medical or mental health assistance for these or any other conditions and not look to the Mentor for assistance in these areas. For example, the parties may wish to investigate the assistance provided through the Lawyers Assistance Program and PPC Canada.

If a Mentee believes that she may be facing discrimination or harassment in her workplace, then she may be able to discuss the matter with her Mentor; however, if the Mentor feels that the Mentee should speak to someone more formally, then the parties may wish to investigate the assistance provided through the Law Society’s Equity Ombudsperson.

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The parties should keep everything that is discussed between them strictly confidential unless they have the explicit permission of the other party to release it. This confidentiality agreement should continue even when the formal mentoring relationship has ended.

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If the parties find that they are incompatible, or that the mentoring relationship is not working well, either the Mentor or the Mentee may contact a member of the Mentoring Committee for advice or guidance. If the parties choose to end the mentoring relationship, the Mentoring Committee may attempt to re-match either of the parties, upon request from the party, and if other Mentors and/or Mentees are available.