In our LawBiz Managing Partners Roundtable, we have been discussing for several years the phenomenon of mentoring, a practice prevalent for many years in smaller firms. As law firms have increased in size, and as pressures continue to mount to increase billable hours, there is no time left for the old-fashioned mentoring.

Yet, new associates do not advance without the benefits of mentoring as we knew it. Law firms are experiencing the negative impact of the absence of effective mentoring. Associates are leaving the firms in droves, some going to other firms, some going in-house and some leaving the practice altogether.

First, managing partners are beginning to say that they know mentoring doesn’t work … and can’t be mandated. The relationship must be between two consenting adults … the older and the younger lawyers.

Second, managing partners are beginning to say that the newer lawyer must seek out his/her own mentor from among the firms’ elders who are willing to make the contribution. Once done on a voluntary basis, the process will work.

This latter function is, today, being performed by law practice management coaches who understand the industry, the profession, the way law firms generally operate, and can provide guidance in a myriad of ways.