Jan Bowen-Neilsen, qualified coach and mentor and the founder of Quiver Management, tells us his thoughts on the Law Society's mentoring scheme:
For the past six months, Quiver Management has been partnering with the Law Society of Scotland to deliver the organisation's first career mentoring programme.
What was initially expected to be a relatively low-profile pilot programme involving a dozen mentors and a similar number of mentees has ended up being extremely popular. The numbers are higher than anyone could have expected.
The feedback on the training from mentors has been 100% positive and the Law Society, who were attracted to us by our European Quality Awards, have been delighted by the programme's success. Since November last year, we have trained more than 30 mentors and over 90 mentees have signed up to be mentored.
Who was Mentor and what is mentoring?
In Greek mythology, Mentor was a wise advisor to the son of Odysseus, impersonated by the goddess Athena to offer advice on dealing with his mother's suitors while they waited for his father to return from the Trojan War. In modern business language, it is someone who imparts wisdom and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.
This role can be used to facilitate personal and professional development through support, challenge and review. In practice, it involves listening to the concerns of the mentee and using experience to help see new perspectives, identify opportunities, perhaps challenge assumptions and develop self-awareness, all with a view to expanding on the mentee's capability to excel in his or her profession.
As with all good business coaching, mentoring isn't about telling someone how they should behave differently. It's about encouraging mentees to take responsibility for their own progression, asking them questions which provoke the responses to help them find their own answers.
Benefits to both mentees and mentors
The programme gives valuable experiences to the mentees, who are able to call on the experience and knowledge of senior people in their legal profession. It provides an enhanced network of legal professionals for those starting their career, as well as improving self-confidence and giving new perspectives on career goals and ambitions.
But the mentors are finding our programme equally valuable. Not only are they able to achieve the gratification of passing on their knowledge and expertise but the training has also developed their own leadership and management skills, while at the same time gaining new and fresh perspectives during their conversations with the mentees.
So why such interest?
One of the recurring themes is that many of the mentors say they wished they had been able to benefit from a similar programme when they were in the early stages of their careers.
There is obviously a real need out there for this sort of support, with more than seven times the expected number of mentees signing up to the programme. The legal profession is extremely competitive, and challenging and trainees and young solicitors can benefit from the extra support a mentor can provide. Having a mentor is also a great self-development tool, and solicitors of all stages and levels of experience have been keen to be mentored to develop their own skills and perspectives .
High quality training and support
Quiver Management has previously trained three Law Society staff to qualification level in coaching and mentoring. Two of these qualified coach/mentors, Heather McKendrick and Elaine MacGlone, are now the leads on this initiative and provide support to the mentors and mentees throughout the programme.
We were highly impressed with the approach Law Society took to the programme. The Law Society did not make the mistake that we often hear other organisations make, of assuming that mentoring is easy, and just about giving advice. The Law Society wanted high quality mentoring training by a reputable training provider. We provided advice and developed a mentoring programme tailored specifically for them.
On the programme itself, mentors receive a full day of training. During training, mentors learn how to develop an appropriate mindset for the role, as well as learning how to listen constructively, question effectively, how to share their experience without taking the ownership away from the mentee, how to structure effective mentoring conversations and how to draw the relationship to its conclusion.
Mentors and mentees are then matched according to their requirements and experiences. Suitable candidates for mentees are LLB or Diploma students or trainees, or indeed qualified solicitors looking to develop themselves and their career.
The mentors and mentees are now meeting on a monthly basis.
A few months into the pilot, the Law Society conducted a survey on the experiences so far. The mentors were also invited to attend an evening event with a mentoring expert panel, which I led, to answer questions from the mentors based on the experiences and challenges they had had so far.
This is a fantastic project for Quiver Management to be involved with and a great way to work with some top class professionals in a really beneficial environment. We have been particularly pleased with the 100 per cent positive feedback from the mentors on the quality and benefits of the training we provided.
We are looking forward to continue the work with the Law Society - the impact of this pilot programme has already been significant and we hope it will continue to grow.