The parties should discuss their expectations for the mentoring partnership at the first meeting.
This should include:
- how frequently they will connect, and by what means;
- the goals of both for the year;
- the topics, both professional and personal, that the parties wish to discuss; and
- 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.
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.