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Why Women Lawyers Need Sponsors, Not Just Mentors

Mentoring in the legal profession is not new. For women lawyers, in particular, mentors can be invaluable sources of guidance on everything from the nuts and bolts of the practice to work/life balance strategies. Many firms have formal mentoring programs for associates, pairing them with a partner or senior associate who can help them develop their skills as lawyers. Every young lawyer should seek out and develop a positive relationship with a mentor (and pay it forward to the next generation by becoming a mentor in the years ahead).

But as you look up at the law firm ladder, a mentor can only take you so far. Mentors are focused on your development, not your advancement. To truly make your way up that ladder to the partnership rung, you need more than a mentor. You need an advocate. You need an ally. You need a champion who can promote you and your talents at the partnership or management level. You need a sponsor.

What is a Sponsor?

It is no secret that in the legal profession and in the business world, the advancement of women through the ranks seems to hit a brick wall/glass ceiling/iron curtain when it comes to senior leadership and management positions. The Harvard Business Review issued a research report in 2010 titled “The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling.” That report defines a sponsor as “someone who uses chips on his or her protégé’s behalf and advocates for his or her next promotion” as well as doing at least two of the following...

To read the full article by Yuliya LaRoe, a coach for lawyers and law firms, a former practicing attorney, and co-founder of 20/20 Leadership Group, an international coaching and training firm, visit Law Practice Today.

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