Just Opening Doors or Career Advice? Mentor/Mentee Pair Provides Dual Perspective on Mentoring

by Lauren Piccolo Ingram on October 13, 2011

In advance of the Chapter’s panel discussion on mentoring –  “Identifying, Developing and Sustaining Powerful Relationships,” the LMA sat down with Lauren Piccolo of Latham & Watkins LLP and chair of the NYLMA’s Mentoring Committee, and Nicole Kessler of Paul Hastings LLP. Each shared with us some thoughts from their experience working together as a mentor/mentee pair.

LMA: We understand that you worked together as a mentor/mentee pair. How did that come about?

Nicole Kessler (NK): I met Lauren shortly after joining the Business Development Department at Paul Hastings and became friendly over conversations about weekend plans, yoga, and our work projects. Over time, I became increasingly impressed with Lauren’s work ethic, the respect she had from both her business development colleagues and firm lawyers, and her commitment to her legal marketing career. I found myself asking for her feedback on items ranging ways to improve the presentation of marketing materials to to methods to engage lawyers in productive conversations about cross-selling efforts.

What are the boundaries of a mentor/mentee relationship?

Lauren Piccolo (LP): I think the boundaries of a mentor/mentee relationship are partially defined by context and environment. The role of a mentor, in my mind, is to provide advice and be a sounding board for a mentee’s ideas. My MBA classmates at Fordham would likely challenge that definition and suggest that mentors are there to open doors for the mentee, etc. I think there is some room for that as well, provided it is in the right context. I think its best to stick to an advisor/advisee relationship, particularly when you are mentoring someone within your work place.

NK: I agree with Lauren that the boundaries of a mentor/mentee relationship may vary depending on the context and environment of the relationship. Given that Lauren and I worked in the same department, we maintained a professional relationship grounded in idea sharing. It is important to respect your mentor’s opinion, recognize the experience they have, and to be sensitive to their time and availability.

LMA: What did you each gain from the experience?

NK: My relationship with Lauren has helped me gain a more confident voice and take steps to advance my legal marketing career. 

LP: Personal satisfaction mostly. I was really excited for Nicole when she was promoted from Senior Coordinator to Supervisor earlier this year. In addition, I thought it was valuable to hear her perspective on things. I felt like it made me a better manager to understand the coordinator view on certain projects and issues.

LMA: Nicole, now that you have been mentored, would you consider being a mentor?

NK: I would welcome the opportunity to serve as a mentor and also plan to maintain my mentor/mentee relationship with Lauren. Throughout my career, I hope to have the privilege to work with many professionals from which I can seek advice and who may seek my advice.

LMA: Lauren, same question for you, but the flip perspective. Now that you have been a mentor, would you consider being mentored?

LP: Yes, absolutely. In fact, I have been privileged to work with many talented colleagues over the years who I view as mentors. When I was at Paul Hastings, Todd Tukey gave amazing career advice and I give him much credit for my two promotions while I was at the firm. One of the partners with whom I worked closely over the past four years gave me exceptional direction and support in my pursuit of admission to business school.

LMA: Any final words of advice for our members who are seeking mentors?

NK: Seek a mentor who has a career of interest to you, that you are comfortable with and that you can learn from. Network, not only through your personal contacts, but though professional organizations such as the LMA.

LP: The mentors from whom I have benefited the most have been colleagues or superiors whose work I respected and with whom I felt comfortable. Think about who those people are in your world, and use their experience to your advantage.

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