Legal Career

A moment of self-reflection: The surprising benefits of mentoring for both sides

When Mike Doesburg, partner at Wynn Williams (Auckland, New Zealand), decided to become a mentor as part of The College of Law’s Mentoring Programme, he was ready to give what he could to the next generation of lawyers.

After all, he knew how much the guidance would mean to new graduates.


But what Mike wasn’t expecting was how mentoring could benefit him too.

In this article, Mike shares his first-hand experience as a mentor – and gives junior lawyers advice on how to start their careers on the right foot.


Giving back out of gratitude

I’ve been lucky in my career, as I’ve had a few good mentors along the way.

The partners and senior lawyers at the firms I’ve worked for as well as the barristers I’ve worked with were always ready to provide guidance – and that’s helped me get to this point in my career today.

We do learn a lot and gain valuable experience when we’re forced to figure things out for ourselves. But it’s a lot easier to chart a path and avoid mistakes if you have someone who’s been through it all to guide you. And I am always grateful that I’ve had that.

So when I heard of the College’s Mentoring Programme, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for me to start paying back to the next generation of lawyers.

An enjoyable and beneficial experience

One thing I like about this Mentoring Programme is that it reaches a wider group of people. It gives us the chance to mentor someone who’s not from our own firms. And we’re mentoring because we choose to – not because our employers ask or expect it of us.

Being a mentor has been very rewarding so far. I get to see and make a positive change in someone else and give them advice that they can put into action.

It’s a wonderful feeling, knowing that I’m making a difference in somebody’s professional life instead of just getting on with my own day job.

Not to mention how it’s helped me. I found that when I’m forced to sit back and help or advise someone as a mentor, I need to really think about what I do – and why I do it.

Mentoring is also encouraging me to pause for some self-reflection. It’s giving me the chance to learn more about myself and my values. And I know this will help me see things more clearly and make better decisions in my own career moving forward.

Why every young lawyer should have a mentor

Being a lawyer can be a difficult profession. It’s not only technically challenging, but there are also many relationships you need to juggle.

Young lawyers, especially, can be under a lot of pressure. There is so much to learn and do and think while trying to advance your career. That often means you’re working long hours, you’re always switched on, and you’re trying to impress those around and above you.

To do that all by yourself without having someone to talk to? It can be tough. Really tough.

Having a mentor to guide you, especially through that first stage of your career, can help set you on a good career trajectory.

Also, if you’re starting out and you’re not sure what area of law you want to get into, talking to someone who’s been around the traps will assist you in making an informed decision.

It will make what would have been one of the hardest times of your career a little bit easier.

So if you’re still thinking about joining the Mentoring Programme, I say just dive into it. And when you’re in the programme, think about what you need – and don’t be afraid to ask for it.

We’re all here, ready to help you.