It’s common for people who’re looking for mentors to try and look outside their own circle of influence. After all, it’s hard to believe that millionaires and successful business people could be just one connection away. Yet that’s more often than not the case. In fact, your best bet for finding mentors is usually your lawyer.
What You’re Really Looking for in a Lawyer
When you’re choosing a lawyer, you absolutely want to choose a lawyer that specializes in your industry.
If you’re starting a restaurant, pick a lawyer that specializes in restaurants, not just small businesses.
If you’re starting a solar cell research company, get a lawyer that specializes in working with the green tech industry.
In addition to getting more targeted legal advice, you also get connections.
If you’re working with a green tech lawyer, that lawyer is going to know other green tech entrepreneurs, green tech VCs, and green tech angels. If the lawyer trusts you and likes your idea, they’ll often be able to put you in touch with some very high-powered mentors.
Can Your Lawyer Help? The Best Way to Know
The best way to know whether or not your lawyer can help you find mentors is to ask. You can ask right upfront, even before you sign a retainer.
Let your lawyer know that you’re just as interested in his connections as you are in his legal advice. Ask him if he’d be able to introduce you to people who’ll move you forward in your career.
This will give you a good sign of whether or not that lawyer can help you out.
A Word on Equity Lawyers
In the world of startups, it’s not uncommon for lawyers to take equity. That means instead of getting paid cash, or in addition to getting paid cash, they’ll own a small portion of your company.
While this can be a relief for cash-strapped companies in the beginning, this can actually be a very expensive price to pay in the long run.
That said, you do get one thing with equity lawyers that you don’t get with other lawyers. They now have a vested interest in your success.
A lawyer who you’re just paying a retainer to might not open their full rolodex to you. But a lawyer who owns a 3% stake in your company and believes the company will be worth many millions often will.
One Other Place to Look
Finally, also choose your accountant in a similar manner. Try to work with accountants who’ll know potential mentors.
Never underestimate the power of connections. If you choose your lawyers and your accountants right, they can be your gateway to your future mentors.