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By: Barbara A. Bessey, CP

Greetings, TPS Nation! It’s great to see you on this absolutely fabulous Monday morning. Here’s the deal – it’s either going to be a fabulous Monday or we’re going to go down in a big blaze of legal glory trying to make it happen! Today, Barbara is stopping by to share a guest post on the topic of mentorship. What do mentorship and mining have in common? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.

I connected with Jamie Collins through the NALA group as an active member of NALA. Jamie had shared some of her articles that she posted on TPS with the NALA group. The first article I read of Jamie’s was a very interesting article about paralegals being planners and the run-away train that we end up on each day trying to derail us. I then read Jamie’s article regarding TPS, how her vision began, and what mentoring meant to her. It stayed with me; I woke the next morning thinking about what I wanted to post as a comment.

I sat down to my computer, logged into LinkedIn, went to my Groups’ listing, clicked TPS, and low and behold there was Jamie’s current article about a writing contest. Great! I thought, “I’m going to develop my comment into an article for the contest.” Life is sometimes a run-away train and my best laid intention to do something that is career related just sat on the hard drive of my computer partially started as a random thought process. I know the contest is long over and we had some amazing winning articles [insert applause!]. But, I felt compelled to finish my thought process and submit a guest blogger piece to help my dear friend Jamie find some precious extra time to spend with her family.

I believe many of us have come across the occasional paralegal at work or in our local association that feels that her best asset is to hang onto the “golden nuggets” of knowledge – a miser. I’m not sure if these paralegals have a fear of losing their job or losing certain projects if they share their experience and talents with “newbie” paralegals. I call them “golden nuggets” of knowledge because they are the things that a paralegal won’t find in a textbook sitting in a class. They also may not be helpful words spoken by an attorney because most attorneys don’t really know the exact intricate steps paralegals take to get their work done.  It is up to paralegals to share their knowledge and experiences with others.

Even though I have 20 plus years of legal experience, starting as a receptionist at a small law firm of brothers, I still feel like I am a newbie in certain situations as most TPSers likely can relate to. Every time I have changed jobs, I’m the newbie learning the office culture and the office’s intricate internal procedures. Sometimes, I am also a newbie learning a new area of law.

I was also a newbie when I joined the executive board of a paralegal association by volunteering from the floor for a vacant position. It was a total unexpected “knee jerk” response from me, the classic shy introvert, to raise my hand and volunteer. I really felt like a newbie in unchartered waters when I became elected chair of that executive board several years later (upon encouragement from a now past president of NALA while having lunch with her the last day of an annual conference). I led by example of women I felt had leadership qualities in “aces of spades”. True mentors. I attended national conferences as a newbie. Talk about needing that “20 seconds of insane courage” that Jamie has talked about to learn the “practice of networking” [insert positive nod of head].

Even if a paralegal has years of experience in one way or another she/he continues to be a newbie. We all need mentors of one kind or another throughout our careers as paralegals. We all become better paralegals by sharing the “golden nuggets” of knowledge.

Mentoring is like mining. The golden nuggets are there to be extracted from the legal community whether it be from individuals in the workplace, an association, or an online group, which has formed as a “mineralized package”. The miners (newbies or veterans) might find some of the golden nuggets just under the surface; however, more often than not it might take a little bit of work to harvest the most valuable pieces. Don’t give up. Sometimes the miners might have to “sift through a whole lot of sand” to extrapolate the real gems. Keep digging. The internet has an abundance of blogs and articles — take as little or as much information as needed that works for you.

Mentorship should be a valuable and integral part of the workplace. It has to be. And if mentors are not prevalent in a paralegal’s workplace then she/he needs to find mentors in other places. Keep searching. Knowledge is meant to be shared and paid forward, not buried or secreted in the “ore body”.  Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, like the landscapes of Mother Earth. Mentors may be like river beds, beach sand, or unconsolidated materials (placer deposits) or be like veins, layers, or mineral grains of solid rock (lode deposits). Either type, golden nuggets are extractable by different techniques. Keep trying. Not all of the “golden nuggets” come from deep within an “ore body”; some of the best “pearls of wisdom” are tucked deep inside a protected shell in the soft body waiting for the right person to open that shell to release it. It might be your next “aha moment”.

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Join.
Attend.
Don’t give up.
Keep digging.
Keep searching.

…until you find those precious golden nuggets of mentorship.

Just like Barbara said, “It might be your next ‘aha moment.’”

Remember, good day or blaze of glory — either way, we’ve got it covered! Make it fabulous. We’ll see you soon.