MOSAIC founders Claire Debney and Emma Sharpe, and ACC’s associate vice president for leadership development Tori Payne discuss the importance of mentorship for in-house counsel, and how the MOSAIC program is making it easier than ever to find a mentor – or become one.
CCBJ: MOSAIC has been successful in the United Kingdom over the last few years. Can you tell us about the program and how it got started?
Claire Debney: MOSAIC stands for Mentoring Opportunities Shared Amongst In-House Counsel. The idea came out of a conversation I had with another general counsel at a conference. We were talking about connecting our teams and how it would be really helpful to get different perspectives from different industries. We both felt like we had not had enough of those opportunities, and we decided to do a pilot program around mentoring, involving four or five companies. The pilot was very small but very successful, so we decided to expand it. I came up with the name MOSAIC which captures what we are trying to do – sharing mentoring opportunities among in-house counsel.
We built a website and launched it to a wider audience, mainly within our network at first, but it grew organically. Emma and I were doing this in our spare time. We were inviting people to fill out forms on our website, which we would collect over a period of time, until we had a pool of mentors and mentees, and then we would sit on my living room floor and match people up. We took it very seriously, because we knew that the power of mentoring relationships really depends on the connectivity – the chemistry. After two or three years, we got to a point where we had a hundred mentoring pairs. We wanted to take it to the next level, so we talked about getting investment and looking at software to help us, because we were only two people. We didn’t want the program to be limited by our human capacity.
Emma Sharpe: So we partnered with a U.S. software firm called Chronus – they are a mentoring software provider, and we’re using their technology as a platform to match people. We have worked very closely with Chronus to design the algorithm that will suggest mentor-to-mentee matches based on specifications that are selected when users complete their profiles. And once a mentor accepts a request, the system allows the mentoring pair to schedule appointments, set goals, receive emails and push notifications, etc. There are also iOS and Android app versions of MOSAIC, powered by Chronus, that can be downloaded once people register on the platform.
The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and Shire Pharmaceuticals recently launched a pilot program for MOSAIC in the United States. Can you tell us about that?
Tori Payne: ACC has long wanted to offer mentoring opportunities to our 45,000 members all over the world, and we also have had interest from members by practice area, as well as geographically. They want to be able to connect across industries and practice areas, as well as locally, with other in-house counsel members – so the MOSAIC program is a perfect fit for us. We launched a pilot version at our ACC Northeast Chapter in Boston, and it’s been very successful. As soon as Claire and Emma are ready for global expansion, ACC is ready to go. We’re really excited about it.
Debney: ACC has been fantastic. Emma and I have been involved with ACC as members, and we have also sat on the European Board and International Legal Affairs Committee. It’s a perfect umbrella – they get what we’re trying to do. We had a launch party in December to bring the idea of MOSAIC in front of the lawyers at Shire and also the Northeast Chapter of ACC. We’re going live with the platform in January. We’ve been busy building and testing the algorithm and the platform content. In-house lawyers with Shire and the ACC Northeast Chapter will be invited to join the program as it launches in the U.S. – they are our pilot program for the U.S. As Tori said, there are ACC members all over the world, and we see no limit to this if it is successful.
Can you describe the typical profile of one of your mentors? What is the process for becoming a mentor?
Debney: I don’t think there is a typical profile, necessarily. It is about the mindset, and it’s about being able to give back. I’ve talked to many people about the preconception that you have to be a certain age to be a mentor or have some specific level of experience. That makes sense for someone who’s looking for a senior mentor, but not everyone is. If you’re a junior in-house lawyer, if you’re quite young or you are inexperienced, you’re going want someone who’s just a few years ahead of you and understands what that looks like. You don’t want someone who’s been doing this for 20 years, because there’s too much distance between what they do and what someone who’s just starting out does. So the breadth of mentors that we bring in will be across the spectrum, across regions, across industries. We want people to have that choice.
Sharpe: We both strongly believe that the route to a legal profession now is not necessarily through the traditional channels of training and qualifying to become a lawyer . There are many people who choose the law as a second career. They have decided to switch professions, so they bring a wealth of knowledge from that first career. There are also people who come into the law or qualify as a lawyer through a paralegal role. To reflect the growing diversity of experience, we’ve extended the program to all legal professionals. This means we’re not just talking about qualified lawyers anymore, now we’re talking about trademark attorneys, patent attorneys, operations professionals, contract managers and more.
Payne: We’ve tested mentoring programs in the past, with practice networks and also within individual chapters, and we’ve had a similar experience. ACC members who have participated in these programs have really run the gamut, from being new to the in-house practice to being very senior, practicing for 10, 20, 30 years or more, as well as being from across various industries. From our prior experience, we think that all of our members, regardless of how long they’ve been practicing, really value and are excited about learning from their colleagues or giving back as a mentor to another in-house counsel professional. I would expect to see similar enthusiasm – and diversity – with this new program.
What makes for a successful mentor-mentee relationship?
Debney: Mentoring is really about forming a connection – establishing trust and having an honest conversation about what you’re both looking for. And the way we measure success is not through Excel spreadsheets; it’s through stories – the anecdotes and actual case studies we’ve looked at when we’ve done this in the past. If we make a difference to one person, it’s been worth it, and if we can make a difference to more than one person, the impact starts to become significant.
How do corporations that support MOSAIC benefit from their participation?
Debney: It’s a way of giving your team opportunities to develop that they may not have had access to internally. Often, legal team structures are quite flat, so you don’t get to manage people, for instance. Especially when you have mid-level legal professionals being mentors to other junior members, because it’s quite empowering. Like I said earlier, there is this preconception that you need to be slightly long in the tooth and very experienced in order to be a mentor, but that’s not the case.
What are some of ACC’s goals and hopes for the continued development of the group?
Payne: Our members really look to ACC for practice area skills, business skills and professional development, so this partnership with MOSAIC is really an amazing addition to the programming that we already do, both in person, through the ACC headquarters and locally through our various chapters, as well as virtually, through our ACC network. The mentoring program has been a long time coming, and we’re just really pleased to be able to roll it out, eventually, to our members all over the world. It’s a game changer.
Debney: Exactly. As an in-house community, we need to be better at supporting one another, and this is a great way to do it. So many people have said to us, “I wish I’d had this when I was coming up.”
Payne: We already have so many members who are really interested in giving their time to support and help another in-house counsel. We see it informally every day, so with the new mentoring program, and with the technology that MOSAIC has implemented that makes it easy to make those connections, we feel like ACC members all over the world will soon have the opportunity to make that connection – which, of course, is why ACC is here, to serve in-house counsel.
MOSAIC is a division of The Light Within Limited, a not-for-profit company, registered in England.
To become a member of MOSAIC visit the website. MOSAIC charges a small annual membership fee to its members (free for mentors) to cover costs and to develop and expand the program further.