Your Mentor’s Advice Isn’t Gospel

Even if you have a great mentor, you can get bad advice. A judge of the New York Surrogate’s Court was censured for failing to properly report a campaign contribution from her long-time friend and mentor.

During her race to become judge, the then-attorney’s campaign was low on funds. Her friend and mentor advised her “that the Election Law permitted a candidate to receive money as a personal gift or loan, which the candidate could then convey to the campaign as a contribution or loan in his/her own name.” Her mentor never checked this with the campaign’s election law consultant, nor did the candidate. The mentor then proceeded to loan and gift the candidate a total of $250,000, which the candidate contributed to her own campaign.

According to the Legal Profession Blog “[t]he Commission on Judicial Conduct noted that the judge was an inexperienced judicial candidate who had relied on the bad advice of her friend and mentor, who was the campaign contributor.”

The lesson I drew from this case, besides “don’t launder money,” is that nobody is right all of the time. Just because advice is coming from someone you respect, doesn’t mean it’s true or ethical. If it smells fishy, second-guess and question what you’re told. (h/t Legal Profession Blog)

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  • Stephen

    Good post. Should be common practice. You would never cite to that “great case holding” your “attorney friend” informed you about without at least reading the case and shepardizing it. The same principle should apply to business advice. But, it sure seems like lots of mentees never bother to check into the advice they receive from the “esteemed” mentor, marketing guru, etc. However, as we all know, ignorance is no defense when you are hauled in front of the disciplinary committee!

  • shg

    This is a point worthy of expansion. Mentors can offer the benefit of their experience, but no good mentor will say that their way is the only or even the best way, just the way they learned from experience works for them. They can share what they’ve learned, but just as there are many accomplished lawyers out there, there are similarly many ways to achieve success. Some work for one person but not another. And sometimes, a mentor is just wrong.

    Nothing is so simple and clear that one person has either all the answers or perfect answers. That includes mentors.