New Jersey Law Journal: David Dugan: Mentorship Is About Recognizing Talent and Investing in It
Is the role of mentor one that you set out to take, or one you happened into?
Initially, I did not see myself as a mentor as much as an attorney who recognized great talent and wanted to make sure some of our hardest working and most promising attorneys were given the potential to shine and have a great experience here. I believed that if I made an investment in these folks, they would stay at CSG long-term. Accordingly, I received very positive and touching feedback from people at the firm and realized that training and mentoring attorneys was a way I could help our great culture grow and take the CSG experience to the next level. Additionally, and within the past week, a close friend who left our firm several years ago and opened her own very successful practice told me she sees me as a mentor—a particularly flattering statement considering how much I respect this attorney.
Why are mentors so important in the legal profession?
The profession in recent years has taken a turn for the better in realizing the importance of establishing a humane and welcoming culture—and one that cares about their attorneys not simply as timekeepers, but as team members who are here to grow and learn from us. Even though CSG is at the forefront of those changes, the legal profession can still be very intimidating to new attorneys. However, when we provide one-on-one guidance and take an interest in our colleagues’ professional development, we can help attorneys make the transition and develop the confidence they need to succeed.
Good mentors often have learned from good examples. Who are some people who have mentored you?
Unfortunately, I haven’t been as lucky in the mentorship department myself in the legal field, in large part because I never sought out help and guidance as a younger attorney when it was available. For that reason, I make clear to other attorneys that there are many people in our profession willing to help—including people that may not see themselves as mentors, per se, but have a wealth of knowledge they can share.
Law is, for many, more than a full-time job. How does one create time for mentorship?
If you want something done, ask a busy person because that person will make it a priority and find the time. Fortunately, a significant part of the mentoring we do can be built into our current work by taking time to explain to our colleagues what we are doing and why we are doing it. Additionally, there are other times when, for example, we allow a newer attorney to argue a motion and prepare that person on “our own dime” as well as helping them prepare for CLE and other presentations. That may take additional time, but if it’s important to us we will find the time because it benefits everyone. Moreover, when you invest your time and patience into those you mentor, the hope is that the folks we mentor will stay with us long-term, and their growth and knowledge will pay significant dividends on the time we invest (win-win).
Reprinted with permission from the September 26, 2022 issue of the New Jersey Law Journal. © 2022. ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.