Hire a Mentor
In a rapidly changing legal landscape attorneys still benefit from mentorship opportunities. But finding and building those relationships can be a challenge. Enter—the mentor for hire.
In a rapidly changing economy and legal industry, at Hire an Esquire we often hear from more seasoned and younger lawyers alike that younger lawyers are not getting the mentorship and guidance that was part of the training of years past—and that this omission is extremely detrimental to career development. We also think that the wisdom, experience, and potential of more senior members of the legal workforce is severely underestimated and undervalued; ways of harnessing this potential for the new economy are seriously underexplored.
At Hire an Esquire, we noticed the members of our network finding their own ways to unlock this potential. Younger lawyers with growing practices are using Hire an Esquire to engage more experienced lawyers to assist with increasingly sophisticated projects/clients and to supplement gaps in their training.
We thought this trend was worth exploring further so we sat down with Stevan Sandberg who has been working as a “mentor attorney” to one of our growing solo clients to learn more.
About Stevan Sandberg
Stevan is an attorney with almost 4 decades of experience and expertise in the legal and business realities of real estate. After graduating from Harvard Law in the late 70’s, he has represented major corporations and financial institutions as outside counsel, acted as General Counsel for major real estate development and service companies, and created a real estate consulting group. Stevan has brought this wealth of experience and wisdom to a solo practitioner on our platform who advertised for a Mentor Attorney. We asked him to sit down and share with us about this arrangement and how it’s been working.
HAE: What drew you to Hire an Esquire?
At the time, I was building my own consulting practice. I had a few clients for whom I had done real estate legal work and real estate consulting. When I saw the ad for a mentor attorney on Hire an Esquire I thought, ‘I’d love to build a business doing this’. And that’s still something that I would like to do, if I could have half a dozen, or a dozen [mentor engagements].
HAE: So, you’ve taken on this role as a mentor attorney for a small law firm. How did this arrangement come about?
I saw the ad and my response was immediate, ‘this sounds great and this sounds perfect for what I want to do’. I replied to the ad and got an immediate response. And I spoke with [the solo practitioner] and we decided to proceed and see how things went. That was 6 months ago. I give all of the credit to [the solo practitioner], because I think it was somewhat extraordinary that a young lawyer who is building a very successful practice had the intellectual curiosity and introspection to think, am I missing anything here? And then to take the time to think through that problem and post an ad and try to fill a gap that he recognized.
HAE: What advice do you have for solo practitioners or attorneys at small firms who are looking for mentors or ways to continue to learn and grow their practices?
The importance of a thoughtful business strategy and how business development fits into the larger strategy. This is a fair amount of what [solo practitioner] and I talk about. His business strategy is re-examined and adjusted periodically in a disciplined way, as are his client development plans. I think an unexpected benefit for [him] has been including me in his networking relationships. I bring a different age group and experience history than [he] would find in a typical networking arrangement. I think that’s valuable to him in terms of introductions that I can make, but also to leverage my contacts. For example, he’s working with one of his clients in a situation where they’ve been unable to gain the attention of a company to try and resolve a dispute. It just so happens that I know the fellow that until last year was GC there. He’s retired, but I spoke with him and put he put us in touch with people at the company, his successor GC being one of them. [Solo practitioner] now has an avenue into the company that he didn’t have before. And the introduction that was made will give us the attention we need to get a fair resolution. [Solo Practitioner] was surprised that I had that entree. This happy coincidence is illustrative of something that can occur when a young attorney has a network that includes more experienced and older lawyers. Other things that we talk about are, what do clients expect, what do they like and dislike about their relationships with their outside counsel. We talk about client communication and reports. [He] had never done something that many big firm lawyers do almost instinctively after the closing of a significant transaction, which is to create deal gifts, the lucite mementos of a notable transaction. Some clients really like those. And there’s a constant reminder of your services sitting on the client’s credenza. The importance of regular communication. Getting to know your client in a way that allows you to expand your services to that client. The old adage of the best way to get new business is from existing clients.
HAE: You’ve mentioned that you both get a lot out of this relationship. What do you see as your benefit in the relationship?
#1 I’ve always enjoyed teaching. When I was in-house counsel, I did a fair amount of training. Not just within my legal department, but throughout the company’s branch offices. We would put on seminars for branch managers, brokers and appraisers and I enjoyed doing that. The firm had a formal mentorship program that I participated in and enjoyed immensely. Like a lot of lawyers, I think I’m a frustrated professor. Even more personally, working with [Solo Practitioner] has made me look back at my own experience and revisit decisions I made and the experiences I had. Although I was never the owner of a small law firm, the mentor role has caused me to look back at some events in my career and say “Gee, should I have thought about this more or done something differently?”
HAE: What was your favorite part of this mentor-mentee engagement?
I touched on that in the sense of the training/mentoring. It’s also fun to be pulled within the excitement and energy of a young lawyer building a practice. And when he closes a big transaction or wins new business, there’s a satisfaction I derive from that. As I said, the relationship has caused me to look back and that has been a helpful process for me. Not in the sense that it leads to regret, but in a way of looking back and saying, “Wow I was involved in some pretty interesting stuff”.
HAE: Any final thoughts?
I put this experience in the context of one trend you see happening in the legal industry generally, which is the formation of virtual law firms where people with different expertise and life experiences join together on an ad-hoc, as-needed basis. In that context, I’m acting as an extension of [his] firm. Not to necessarily do legal work, that’s not part of our arrangement, it’s more advisory than execution, but I think our relationship fits within that larger development.
*Stevan is available to mentor more attorneys. If you are an attorney practicing primarily in real estate law and are looking for a mentor, send us a quick email at email@example.com.