We all need mentors.
By Stephen Mcphee
“As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.” –Ben Hogan
As I write this, my penultimate BarTalk column as CBABC President, my mind is awash with many thoughts – this issue’s topic of young lawyers and mentoring; my own first steps in the CBA as a young lawyer; my recent attendance at Don Brenner’s special sitting; and the obvious, if not sentimental “circle of life” analogy that comes from introspection.
At the risk of becoming sentimental, I must confess that this year has been an emotional one. By that I mean that I have encountered so many people and been affected by their stories about how they have found their way into law and have fared in this most jealous of professions.
While I have expended my own energy, I have been the recipient of so much more energy in return – particularly from our younger lawyers who are embarking on their own lifelong journey in the law. All of them have been eager, idealistic and not just a little bit terrified. They are entering a world in which technology has changed the pace of life and work in a fundamental way and there appears to be less time for them to learn from their more experienced colleagues.
This brings us to mentoring. We have excellent formal mentoring programs through CBA and our various Forums and Sections. They continue to be well supported by lawyers and appreciated by young lawyers.
At the same time, there is so much opportunity for informal, sometimes brief mentoring in every interaction we have with each other. Whenever we enter into a situation with a desire to learn, or an offer to pass on an experience, or a way to demonstrate good judgment or a calm demeanour, we are mentoring each other.
Thankfully our profession is full of willing mentors and mentees – some young lawyers, and some (like me) not so young lawyers.
This brings me to the late Honourable Don Brenner, QC. I was privileged to get to know him over the past few years because of my role on the CBA Executive. He was the consummate mentor – generous with his time, accessible, and a great listener.
At last year’s CBA/VBA golf tournament I joined him in a foursome, and had the opportunity to spend a relaxing afternoon with him.
Some would say you can tell a lot about people by how they play golf. Don metaphorically “smelled the roses” during the round I played with him. He was calm, despite my lack of finesse, and happily picked up the slack when one of our party pulled up injured midway through the round and our foursome was reduced to three.
He made the experience fun and relaxing – I hadn’t picked up a club in more than 10 years and he appreciated that. He made our score look respectable. He made us want to play together again the next year.
As a younger lawyer, I was learning a lot from Don, even in the most informal of circumstances on the golf course.
Of course, we won’t get to play together again. But we can learn from Don’s approach to life. Take on every challenge with vigour and enthusiasm. Make those around you feel important and valuable. And always, always take the time to smell the roses on the way.
I look forward to seeing you at the golf tournament this year on June 16. Yes, you do have the time and it is for a very good cause – to support our law students.
By the way, our “threesome” is looking for a fourth – a ringer with patience and a good sense of humour!
See you there.
This article was published in the June 2011 issue of BarTalk. © 2011 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.