Let’s envision that you are new
to a city and have been invited to
a party by a recent acquaintance.
All you know about the party is the
date, time and venue. You have a
number of questions about the party, such as details regarding dress
code, whether food will be served,
the anticipated guest list and so
on, but you do not feel comfortable
enough to ask them.
When you arrive, you realize
you missed the mark on the dress
code and did not bring a gift for the
host, which it appears most people
have done. Your acquaintance is
busily overseeing the details of
the party and does not notice you
have arrived. There are a number
of guests in groups boisterously
socializing. You try to integrate
but have trouble engaging in the
banter, as you do not know anyone.
You awkwardly roam the room,
Contrast this situation with one
in which a friend provides you
with all the details about the party
in advance, greets you at the door,
introduces you to other guests,
involves you in group discussions
and circles back to you throughout
In each instance, consider
what you would have been able to
contribute, the benefits you would
receive from having attended the
party and your feelings on attending a similar event in the future.
Similar to the example above,
a proactive mentor can make the
difference between a lawyer feeling
included in a law firm or feeling
like the forgotten guest at a party.
Accordingly, a successful mentor/
mentee relationship should include
guidance and support in the following categories:
1. Social—Making introductions
internally and externally and
assisting with social integration of the mentee into the
2. Career—Facilitating work opportunities, monitoring progress
against expectations, providing
guidance on future development.
3. Organizational—Advising on
how to navigate the organization,
including the written and unwritten codes of conduct; understanding organizational governance; and defining a career path
that fits within the organization.
Having a formal mentor and
mentee relationship that addresses
these needs is critical to fostering
inclusion. However, the secret ingredient for success, the factor that
can turn a regular mentor-mentee
relationship into an extraordinary
one, is a personal rapport between
the mentor-mentee, built on trust
and open communication.
This secret ingredient can feel
elusive to a person from a diverse
group, and this could lead to the in-
dividual feeling disadvantaged. She/
he may not be part of the “in” group
or share a common background or
experiences with her/his mentor
or others within the organization,
which may make building the
personal relationship more chal-
lenging. There are a few strategies
an organization can implement to
overcome this potential barrier:
■ ■ Have a formal, written mentor
policy that outlines the roles,
responsibilities and objectives
of the mentoring relationship,
with checks in place to monitor
progress and the ability to make
changes if it is not working.
■ ■ Provide training to mentors-men-
tees that encompasses:
—Methods on how to achieve the
outlined objectives and maxi-
mize the mentoring relationship.
—Tips for mentees on how to
be “mentor worthy” and use
mentor relationships efficiently
—Knowledge on how to mentor across diverse groups
(versus mentoring the classic
■ ■ Incorporate mechanisms to measure and recognize success.
Mentoring is a powerful tool for
inclusion, development and integration. It is one strategy to ensure that
every guest invited to your party is
welcomed and given the support
and knowledge needed to succeed
in your organization. ■
GINA ROGAKOS (gina.
programs at McMillan
advancement and performance
management of associates. She sits on
McMillan’s Inclusion and Diversity
Committee and on the firm’s Women’s
Initiative. Prior to her current role, she
practiced civil litigation.
Mentoring: A Powerful Tool for Inclusion
DIVERSE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT | BY GINA ROGAKOS
WHENEVER I ASK SUCCESSFUL LAWYERS to describe the factors they
attribute to their success, one of the common themes is a strong and dedicated
mentor. Done well, mentoring can also be a powerful tool for inclusion.