Coaches, Mentors, and Sponsors: Understanding the Differences


When do you need a mentor? When do you need a sponsor? When do you need a coach? What's the difference among these three key partners to career success for lawyers? Here's a great cheat list from Catalyst, a global nonprofit organization accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion. Two notes I'd add to their infographic. First, in the legal sector, sponsors are sometimes called rabbis -- this was a fairly common term, for example, when I practiced law in New York and New Jersey law firms.

Second, there are classes of advisers that many lawyers (and others) need: mental, physical, and spiritual health advisers. Coaches, mentors, and sponsors might point out the need for health advisers, but they are not substitutes for them. Lawyers are twice as likely to be addicts than other Americans, and stress-related mental health issues are common. It's difficult to build and sustain a legal career if you are battling these bigger issues. So take good care of yourself and your colleagues.