In today’s environment, all lawyers need law firm sponsors, not mentors. You might think that these two terms are interchangeable or synonymous. The terms are very different; different meanings and very different expectations. That said, mentorship and sponsorship programs do not negate each other: mentorships provide platforms from which to launch sponsorships.

As law firm mentors, whether appointed or self-appointed, your responsibilities to your mentees, the lawyers you mentor, will include modelling best practices, sharing insights and promoting a “you can learn from me and do what I do” philosophy. Or you may simply be on standby as a haven for perceived stupid, tough and career-wrenching questions.

You may assign work to your mentees and be involved in their evaluations. Your mentorship arrangement may be for a specific timeframe or it might not have a “shelf date” expiration, and continue indefinitely.

As law firm sponsors, your scope includes all that pertains to being mentors, and much more.

You are not selected or appointed sponsors. Instead, you select your protégées, the lawyers you sponsor, very carefully, and put unwavering support behind them, very publicly and unabashedly.

You are responsible for the success of these protégées, and are held accountable for their success. You are answerable to your protégées in terms of looking for opportunities to champion their strengths and potential. You are vocal when your support is required, and use your clout and position to help propel them over any hurdles.

Through your sponsorship efforts, you signal to your firm stakeholders that you are willing to back the lawyers you sponsor at most, or all, costs.

Sponsors are predominantly effective when supporting and sponsoring colleagues for key firm advancements, including partnership and other career milestones.

When you execute and deliver as sponsors, you put real skin into the game. Both you and your protégées are in the spotlight together. You will share their success and their failure will reflect on you.

It takes confidence, bandwidth and credibility to be successful sponsors. To lead responsibly and successfully, promote sponsorship at your firm, not mentorship.

Let it rain.

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