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Starmaking: How to Mentor From Within

Posted by Ashley Tenney on Mar 12, 2015 1:46:00 PM



We are so busy. All of us. Every day. Racing against the clock juggling attorney requests, helping them shine bright in their universe. But what about the stars within our own galaxy — the legal marketing rising stars within our firms? Yo! Senior marketer, I’m talking to you! How do you make a positive impact in their career development?

In their book, “Aligning the Stars,” authors Jay Lorsch and Thomas Tierney describe starmaking as the "ability to attract, retain, develop and motivate star talent." Stars are the men and women in critical jobs whose performance is crucial to our organizations’ performance. Stars have the potential to contribute to our firms’ future success and to make a positive impact on our industry. We all know just how important rainmakers can be to a firm's success. But how many of us recognize our own ability and obligation to make stars of our legal marketing colleagues? What a fabulous impact we can make on the long-term prospects of our firms’ success while adding value to legal marketers in our industry.

I’ve been fortunate to have had some incredible mentors during my career. Each has challenged me and helped me grow. Like the manager who told me I should “dress for the job I want, not the job I have.” And the one who helped me get over my fear of public speaking by giving me opportunities to present at internal meetings. And the one who coached me through a difficult conversation I had to have with a partner. Their positive impact compels me to strive to pay it forward and engage in some starmaking of my own. So, now, I informally serve as mentor to more junior legal marketers in my own firm.

Starmaking also helps you, the mentor, grow in ways that are helpful to your own performance. For example, I recently coached a mentee to create a "me file" to track accomplishments, educational accolades and qualifications. I shared that mine is a great tool during the evaluation process. In asking how I organized it, she suggested a best practice that I had not considered and now will be incorporating in my own file moving forward.

Lorsch and Tierney tell us "talent is a firm's only sustainable source of competitive advantage." That validates just how important starmaking truly is. But it is not without risk. If you mentor well, you may, indeed, lose talent and, thus, some market advantage. In our current competitive world, we see high turnover, especially at the junior level. Makes you wonder if it’s worth the investment to mentor potential stars? To that I say, have you ever calculated the cost of mediocrity? Our legal industry is constantly changing in response to market forces and client demands. Mentoring those within your firm to be the leaders of tomorrow will position your firm above the industry, ensuring success.

I leave you with five best practices for mentoring rising stars within your firm: 

  1. Build a connection. Show protégés that you genuinely care about them, as a professional and as a person.
  2. Create buzz. Recognize their accomplishments within the firm and encourage them and others with whom they work to do the same.
  3. Introduce self-awareness. Help protégés identify strengths and neutralize weaknesses. Use assessments like DiSC and StrengthsFinder to provide further insights into powerful personal styles. Help mentees learn about EQ and how to manage it to improve their own effectiveness.
  4. Provide an open, safe and accepting forum to introduce new ideas. Brainstorm, act as a sounding board to try new ideas, ask questions and role play challenging scenarios.
  5. Lead by example. Share your best practices, lessons learned and career goals. Bring mentees with you to meetings to see you in action. Exhibit and commend personal leadership attributes such as character, judgment and intuition. Show how you've been successful and encourage mentees to chart their own course.

Happy Starmaking!


Ashley Tenney is the business development manager for the corporate department at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in Atlanta. She also serves as co-chair of the 2015 LMA Think Tank Committee. She can be reached at

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