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In 2020, the Benchers approved the Lawyer Licensing and Competence in Alberta report, written by well-known legal analyst and consultant Jordan Furlong. One recommendation from the report encourages all newly admitted lawyers to develop one or more mentoring relationships during their first year of practice.
To implement this recommendation, all new lawyers will be automatically enrolled in the Mentor Express program for one year upon being called to the bar in Alberta, starting in September 2021. While this participation in Mentor Express is not mandatory, all new lawyers are encouraged to participate. For those who choose not to, details on how to opt out will be released in August.
For more information on the future of lawyer licensing and competence in Alberta, read this post.
For more information on the Mentor Express program and the automatic enrolment of new lawyers called to the bar, read the following FAQ.
Mentorship is beneficial for any new professionals starting their careers. With a wide range of practice settings and areas of law, this is particularly meaningful for lawyers.
As a new lawyer, mentoring relationships can encourage and empower your professional development, help you identify and achieve career goals, and increase your confidence. By engaging in a mentoring relationship, you can identify gaps in your knowledge or skills and address them early in your career.
Law school focuses on substantive law issues and the legal system, but practical knowledge such as how to run a practice, build a reputation and manage client relationships comes from experience. A mentoring relationship can help leverage the experience of others to develop key competencies and help you choose between the various career paths available to you.
All new lawyers called to the bar in 2021 will be automatically enrolled in the Mentor Express program for one year, beginning in September 2021.
The intent is that this will facilitate and encourage a holistic, new-lawyer-centred approach to continuing personal and professional development during the critical first years of practice.
Yes, you may choose to opt out of the Mentor Express program, but we encourage you to build a mentoring relationship in another capacity, such as within your firm, organization or another mentoring program. Mentor Express is an excellent opportunity to meet with experienced lawyers in the profession and develop useful relationships early in your career. As a new lawyer, we highly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.
Details on opting out of the program will be released in August.
Mentor Express is a non-traditional mentorship program. It is like online shopping, except mentees are shopping to gain from mentors’ experience and insight.
Mentees browse an online listing of mentors and choose one-hour sessions with mentors they are interested in meeting. The self-match system allows mentees to seek guidance and insight relevant to their own career development with a variety of mentors in different work settings.
To learn more about what participation in Mentor Express looks like as a mentor or mentee, visit our website.
Automatic enrolment in Mentor Express applies to new Alberta lawyers called to the bar and entering their first year of practice in 2021. This does not apply to lawyers who are transferring to Alberta from another jurisdiction.
An expanded version of the Mentor Express program is launching in September 2021. In anticipation of this expanded launch, those participating in Mentor Express should be aware that the current program closes on August 31 rather than running until the end of 2021.
I was called to the Alberta bar earlier in 2021 as a new lawyer. Does automatic enrolment in Mentor Express apply to me?
Yes. Automatic enrolment is retroactive for the year 2021. If you are called to the bar between January 1 and July 31, 2021, you will be automatically enrolled in the initial launch of the program in September.
You will receive a confirmation email from the Law Society Mentorship team in early August 2021 detailing next steps and how to participate.
I will be called to the Alberta bar later in the year or in 2022. How will automatic enrolment apply to me?
The first year of the expanded Mentor Express program will run September 2021 – August 2022. New bar calls from January 1 to July 31, 2021 will be included in the initial launch of the program in September.
Bar calls from August 1, 2021 through February 2022 will be automatically enrolled monthly to the current program. Shortly after your bar call, you will receive a confirmation email from the Law Society Mentorship team detailing next steps and how to participate.
Those called to the bar following March 1, 2022, will be automatically enrolled for the September 2022 – August 2023 Mentor Express program. This gives mentees enough time and mentorship opportunities when they enter the program.
I have already participated in Mentor Express as a mentee when I was an articling student. Can I participate again?
Yes. If you have already participated in Mentor Express, you will still be automatically enrolled upon your bar call.
I am not a new lawyer called to the Alberta bar. Can I still participate in Mentor Express as a mentee?
The Mentor Express program will run annually from September to August following its initial launch in September 2021.
I am a participant in the current Mentor Express program. How can I continue into the expanded program come September?
Yes, we need new mentors now more than ever. Given the influx of new mentees coming to the program, we need more mentors from all areas of practice and practice settings to volunteer their time.
As a mentor, you will meet with several new lawyers on a schedule that works for you. Mentors only need to commit to 10 one-hour sessions per year, providing flexibility for busy lawyers interested in giving back to the profession.
The Mentor Express program facilitates one-time one-hour meetings between experienced lawyers as mentors and less-experienced lawyers or articling students as mentees. Each mentor meets with a cross section of mentees over the course of the year. Each mentee meets with multiple mentors.
The Law Society of Alberta has three distinct mentorship programs for its members. You can choose to participate in whichever one appeals to you the most or sign up for all of them if you want. Since each program offers unique benefits to mentors and mentees alike, you can register for as many as your time permits.
In addition to Mentor Express, we offer:
- Mentor Connect, which matches mentors and mentees for a traditional one-on-one mentoring relationship. The Law Society does the matching based on areas of law, location, personal experience and similar interests. We ask for an initial commitment of at least three months, but if the relationship is working the program continues a year.
- AdvisorLink, which connects lawyers or articling students with more experienced lawyers to answer one-off substantive law questions. Requests are made to the Law Society by phone or through an online form.
Mentors and mentees participate for free in Mentor Express.
One of the key features of this program is that scheduling is completely up to you. We recommend booking an average of one mentorship session every month or two. We advise against booking all mentorship sessions for a single day or week as this may not provide the best experience for you or your counterparts.
I am a member of the Law Society of Alberta but I live and work in another province. Can I still participate in Mentor Express?
Yes. There is nothing preventing you from participating in the program even though you practise and live elsewhere. This applies to both mentors and mentees.
If anyone needs to re-schedule a meeting, they should contact their counterpart directly to make alternative arrangements.
The goal of Mentor Express is to facilitate one-time meetings between multiple mentors and mentees. If both of you are willing, you are more than welcome to arrange additional meetings, but within the program you are limited to only one meeting with each other.
Yes. You need to repeat the orientation regardless of previous participation. This ensures you are up to date on any mentoring rule, policy or procedure changes.
The provisions of the Code of Conduct will always apply. Take care to avoid disclosing confidential information. Be aware of the potential for conflicts of interest. There is no solicitor-client privilege for communications between a mentor and a mentee.
What are our disclosure obligations if our discussions reveal conduct deserving of sanction, a potential liability claim, safety issues or other concerns?
Rules 2.03(3) and 6.01(3) in the Code of Conduct provide guidance on this matter. When in doubt, you are encouraged to contact the Office of the Practice Advisor at the Law Society of Alberta for confidential assistance.
Mentor Express is different from other mentoring programs that require mentors to devote significant amounts of time and energy to getting to know a single mentee. In Mentor Express, a mentor’s time commitment is limited to one-hour meetings spread over several months with multiple mentees. To sign up as a mentor:
- Complete an online application to serve as a mentor in Mentor Express.
- Once approved, fill out a short online profile about yourself with a photo and provide placeholders for dates when you would be available to meet mentees. We ask mentors to make themselves available for at least ten sessions during the calendar year of the program.
- As part of your profile, you also choose specific tags to better describe the perspectives you can offer (practice areas, interests, experiences).
- Mentees can book meetings with their preferred mentors on a first come, first served basis. They do this by going to the Mentor Express website and simply clicking on the meeting dates listed on mentors’ profiles.
- Mentors can see who booked their sessions by logging in and viewing their “My Sessions” page.
- There are no assignments, tasks or deadlines. Conversations and topics are driven by the mentees.
If you have practised for at least five years, have never been disbarred from the practice of law in any province or other jurisdiction, and have no formal disciplinary complaints pending, you can serve as a mentor in Mentor Express.
Yes. A mentor’s years of experience in other provinces or jurisdictions (not just Alberta) count cumulatively toward the five-year requirement.
During your practice, you have gained hard-won experience and insight into how best to deal with clients, other lawyers and judges. You have developed office systems that work and may have seen others that do not. You know the importance of organization and developing a strategy, whether it involves running a trial, settlement negotiations or closing a deal. You enjoy practising law without letting it be the only thing in your life.
Your successes and failures have taught you lessons that might benefit others if you are willing to share. You are ready.
No. Mentors are neither required nor expected to do legal research.
Mentors aren’t expected to provide professional advice on personal matters, but those services are available through the Assist Program. The Law Society also maintains contact information for other services available through the community and can assist with any referral that might be required.
Mentor Express offers a unique learning and relationship opportunity that you direct yourself. You match yourself with the mentors you want to meet. Unlike other programs that choose a mentor for you, the self-match system allows you to seek guidance and insight relevant to your own career development and interests. To sign up as a mentee:
- Complete an online application to participate as a mentee in Mentor Express.
- Once approved, the Law Society’s Mentorship team will send you a link to access the Mentor Express platform.
- From there, you can visit the mentor gallery as often as you want to see who is available and the dates you might meet them. You are not restricted to mentors in your own city or town and can meet with any mentor listed.
- You can book meetings with your preferred mentors on a first come, first served basis. You do this by simply clicking on the meeting dates listed on mentors’ profiles. Note: You are limited to one session per mentor but can meet with up to four different mentors.
- You can log in to your “My Sessions” page to see which mentor sessions were successfully booked and your mentors’ contact information.
- Mentees are responsible for contacting their mentors to confirm when and where they will meet and to make any changes if needed.
In the future Mentor Express may be available to law students and National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) candidates, but for now it is limited to lawyers and articling students.
Mentorship can benefit a lawyer at any stage of their career. Your early training and exposure may have been to lawyers with poor practice management skills or who did not share their experience with you when you were a junior. Maybe you have practised in a firm with well-developed support systems and have recently broken away to set up your own shop. Or you are moving into a new practice area, or simply moving to a new office setting.
Having a mentor will help you recognize the hazards and let you learn from other people’s mistakes as well as your own.
I would like to meet with a mentor living in another city. Do mentoring sessions have to be in-person?
No. While we recommend in-person mentorship sessions whenever possible, they aren’t always feasible, especially under the current circumstances of a global pandemic. Please let the Mentorship team at the Law Society know if you need help with video conference software or any other part of setting up a remote meeting.
As a mentee, what can I do if I’m interested in meeting with a specific mentor but they don’t have any sessions available?
Participating mentors are asked to commit to up to ten mentorship sessions over a year. If the sessions of your preferred mentor(s) are filled, we ask you to respect their availability and seek other mentors.
Mentorship is an excellent opportunity to ask questions about a wide variety of personal and professional development topics, including interpersonal communications, lawyer-client relationships, practice management, time management and much more. Mentor Express is not meant for discussing substantive law issues.
If you have a substantive law question, please take advantage of AdvisorLink, another program offered by the Law Society where volunteer lawyers can answer your one-off inquiries in a wide range of practice areas.
Mentorship is an excellent opportunity to ask questions about a wide variety of personal and professional development topics, including interpersonal communications, lawyer-client relationships, practice management, time management and much more. Mentor Express is not meant for finding a job.
Mentees can discuss job search strategies, alternate career paths, resume building and interview skills, but should not ask mentors for a job or expect a mentor to help them look for one.
Mentees should evaluate the information they receive from their mentors using their professional judgment and provide client advice based on their own professional opinion, research and evaluation. This does not preclude a mentor from providing or suggesting a possible referral to the mentee, but the mentor’s role is not to act as a second counsel.
Mentees, let your mentors know ahead of time what you would like to discuss with them. This lets them prepare better and gather any material they may want to share with you at your meeting. Develop a mentoring plan for yourself that lays out expectations and objectives. You should also review confidentiality issues as soon as possible. Confidential client information should never be discussed, and mentors should not be asked for or provide specific legal advice.