From the period when a person is called to bar and for the very few years in his practice as a legal practitioner, there is always the need for legal mentorship while such person is seen as a young lawyer within the age of 1-6 years at least, hence, the need for such young lawyer to choose at least a senior legal practitioner who would always guide him and show him the mode of practice in the real legal practice which is entirely or mainly different from the academic or theoretical environment that such young lawyer is coming from i.e. from the Nigerian Law School.
Therefore, the need for a mentor arises for such young lawyer. However, not all seniors, in my humble view, with due respect to some of them, can actually stand the status of a mentor to mentor the young lawyer, hence, the need to carefully select who the mentor would be with admirable charisma. There are occasions where a mentor might end up adding to the discouraging experiences of such a young lawyer if not carefully handled. That is why this paper is aimed at advising the would-be mentor to always review his approach in his mentoring skills so as not to rather than inspire, be the one to kill the inspiration for greatness in such a young lawyer and thereby becoming a bad mentor. I also believe that having the right mentor for a young lawyer is a fast way in facing the future of the legal profession in Nigeria.
The word ‘mentor’ is defined by the online Webster dictionary as ‘someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person’.From this definition, legal mentor in my humble view means a senior lawyer or senior legal practitioner who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger lawyer. Such mentor might be a temporary one or a permanent one. He could also be a circumstantial mentor or a mentor of all times or purposes. Circumstantial mentor in my humble view is that senior lawyer that is always consulted for his advice or guide by the younger lawyer in any circumstance such as: on the road, in the court; or at any specific place or location as the need for advice arises, whether he is known to the younger lawyer previously or unknown to him but just for an immediate and or urgent guide or solution to the younger lawyer’s pressing issues or challenges (a temporary mentor so to say) while a mentor of all times or purposes is the permanent mentor who is consulted at intervals by the younger lawyer. My take on a temporary mentor is that he is a dangerous one unlike the mentor of all purposes. Mentor of all purposes might be chosen (and advisably though) based on his area of specialization.
For instance, a young lawyer might do well if he chooses his legal mentor in the area of criminal litigation for all his criminal litigation issues in the renowned areas of such mentor or a corporate mentor in the areas of corporate matters or a human rights mentor in the areas of human rights enforcement matters or a mentor in the areas of property based on the specialization of the renowned mentor. This is a good choice for such a young lawyer rather than having a general or jack of all trades as a mentor. So, from the day a young lawyer dreams of being called to bar, and considering his location of practice, he should try to associate himself with those legal mentor of his choice so that such relationship will grow after his call to bar and consequent enrollment as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria licensed to practice laws. Furthermore, it is my humbly advice to senior lawyers to always try to make themselves available for young lawyers who have been impressed by their roles and contributions in the legal profession and would therefore choose them as a legal mentor in their respective field of legacy, though, I would have recommended that a female lawyer finds a co-female senior lawyer as a mentor and a male young lawyer to also find a co-male senior lawyer as a mentor rather than a male to female and or a female to a male in order to forestall any unforeseen circumstances. This is a way of facing the future of the legal profession.
Furthermore, a young lawyer is advised to avoid discussing his legal issues with temporary mentor rather, they should look out for those mentors that they would select to guide and guard them in their affairs until they reach mature stage in their practice. This mentorship is likely not to be forever as they too would, very soon in the later future, be consulted for legal mentorship by their younger lawyers too. I therefore humbly recommend that senior lawyers should be ready and available towards shouldering the responsibilities of mentoring young lawyers since those young lawyers are their legacy that would take over the bar and the bench and the legal profession in the later future.
There is another piece of advice that I would like to give to seniors who are to mentor (whether temporary or permanent mentors) – they should encourage by words and actions rather than discourage their mentee! I have personally had some experiences with some senior lawyers in my early years at the bar when I decided to seek their legal consultation/mentorship. Some, with due respect, actually have reproachable approach. And till today, I still see them but it is really a surprise to me if the Nigerian Bar Association is discussing about facing the future of the legal profession and some are not buying such very good ideas! Some seniors whether consciously or unconsciously, discourage young lawyers or their mentee upon consultation with some words or reactions or expressions. For instance: when a young lawyer approaches the senior lawyer and narrates a scenario or a case that he is handling and says that ‘I did so and so’. Then the senior might say ‘Ah! You have killed your client! Or ‘Ah! How could you have done so?! And you called yourself a lawyer?! Even a law school student will not do what you have done! All these statements will only bring down the zeal and morale of such young lawyer! What matters in such situation are words of assurances! There are various opportunities in a situation rather than causing the young lawyer to feel very depressed and assume that he is actually a killer! Whereas, he could have done better and brilliantly if he were to be assured of better performances!
This is also the sad situation in some of the offices of some senior lawyers where young lawyers are engaged as attorney, with due respect to those seniors! This trend has to stop if we are actually heading for the bright future that we aspire!With due respect, seniors do not really need to bully their young lawyers so as to prove that they are superior!
Finally, I hope that this brief piece guides the reader and that the recommendations would have positively imparted in the reader a greater hope for a brighter future in the legal profession. Furthermore, my door is always open to any young lawyer that wishes to seek my legal mentorship or guidance at any time to the best of my capability, as a hope for young lawyers of my generation! Young lawyers are free to seek me for legal mentorship free of charge either via my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or via my contact phone number: 08168292549. At least, I can try my best to the best of my capability! Let me also have a share in building the future of the legal profession rather than contributing to its destruction! May God forbid bad situations!