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Women Lawyers Are ‘Focused Way Too Much’ on Mentors, BigLaw Partner Says

Posted Feb 16, 2011 11:10 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An Orrick partner isn’t all that impressed with formal mentoring programs at law firms.

Patricia Gillette says such programs don’t work, for the most part, especially for women, the Careerist reports. Firms mean well, Gillette said, but female associates are often assigned to women partners even though they don't have a big book of business.

"I actually think women have focused way too much on mentors,” Gillette tells the Careerist. A lot of women use the lack of a mentor as an excuse. "Women will say, 'I can't be successful because I have no role models, and men are not good role models,' " Gillette said. But that’s the wrong attitude, according to Gillette. She believes women lawyers need to become their own advocates and “forge their own careers.”

In a 2009 article, Gillette advanced the same theme, writing that women lawyers need to take a more active role in managing and advancing their careers. They need to court clients, socialize with firm leaders, tout their capabilities and pressure firms to expand leadership opportunities for women, she said.

The Careerist adds this mentoring advice: Seek out several people who can serve as mentors. Better yet, think of them as advisers or sounding boards rather than mentors. “Personally, I've never expected more than a free lunch from the designated mentors in my past,” the Careerist says.

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