I have been a regular at WLALA’s Downtown Mentoring Circle Dinner for the past two years. It was the first WLALA event that I had attended and it will not be the last. The dinners were organized by my former colleague, Cathy Ostiller, from the US Attorney’s Office, and in attendance were the “mentors” (the more experienced lawyers) and the “mentees” (the fresh faces to the practice of law). The dinners are a fun way to network with other lawyers, in different areas of practice and with varying levels of experience. The distinction between mentors and mentees, however, was often blurred during dinner as we ate and socialized. And we all learned from one another. Little did I know that the mentoring circle connections that I had made early on would later lead to a new job.
While at a mentoring circle dinner one evening, I heard a few of the ladies talking about WLALA’s golf league. At that time, I almost regretted saying “I play golf,” as hearing it aloud made it sound like I am a much better player than I am. In reality, I had not taken a single lesson since college and I have a set of golf clubs that I rarely use. But Cathy heard me, and shortly thereafter, asked if I would substitute in for one of the players, to which I agreed. The player that I substituted in for was Ruth Kahn. (Yes, THE Ruth Kahn, a past president of WLALA, so I felt pressure to play well on her behalf.)
Several months later, I met Ruth at a mentoring circle dinner and introduced myself as her golf substitute. Although we had exchanged a few emails regarding the golf league, we had not met in person until then. Around that same time, after years as partner of a prominent law firm, Ruth left for an in-house counsel position with The Hartford, a Fortune 500 Company. I was in the applicant pool for an in-house position with The Hartford and reached out to Ruth for advice. Ruth responded and kindly offered to forward my resume, which I believe was the key to getting it noticed. Three interviews later and I too now work as a staff attorney for The Hartford.
To be clear, the purpose of this article is not to imply that job opportunities will necessarily result from mentorships. Rather, mentorships are an opportunity to form meaningful connections and professional relationships. I am grateful to Cathy and Ruth, among others, for their guidance and friendship, and I pledge to pay it forward to help others interested in the legal profession as they have helped me.