Law students are often advised to find mentors in the legal profession, people who can offer academic advice and career guidance, and who will advocate for them, whether for promotions or through letters of recommendation. It might be initially weird for law students to think of themselves as mentors. I certainly felt this way, thinking that I was not qualified to mentor anyone given that I myself was figuring things out. Despite this very reasonable feeling, I am here to tell you that you, as an older and wiser law student, actually have a lot to offer, and that mentorship is rewarding for both mentee and mentor.
So, I strongly believe that every law student should sign up to be a mentor, whether formally through their student groups and journal, or informally by striking up conversation with someone who is interested in law school or a new law student.
Here are some reasons why you should become a mentor:
1. Give back to others and pass on advice
You did not get here alone; but benefitted from the help of professors, work supervisors, family members, and other students. Being a mentor is a great opportunity to give back by helping aspiring lawyers find their path and achieve success. Whether your mentee is a younger law student or pre-law undergraduate student, you can offer advice about law school applications, student organizations, courses, professors, job positions, interview tips, clerkship advice, and much more. Institutional knowledge is often passed down and spread around this way.
2. Build leadership skills
Mentoring should be treated as a serious responsibility. Though there is no one way to mentor successfully, an effective mentor is helpful, kind, knowledgeable, and generous. Through learning to be a mentor in an early stage of your legal career, you will also slowly learn about how to lead, to teach, to persuade, and to influence. These skills will come in handy in legal practice, whether as a supervisor of younger attorneys, as an attorney advising clients, as an advocate in front of the court, or as a board member of a nonprofit organization or a bar association.
3. Find friendship and offer support
Law school, as well as the path to law school, is not easy. As a mentor who has been through it, you can serve as sounding board, point of support, and friend, since you can likely relate to the struggles and concerns of your mentee. Moreover, mentors and mentees are often paired together due to similarities in background, college, academic major and interest, or hobbies, making it more likely for friendship to form. It’s a beautiful thing when friendship comes out of mentorship – those are often the strongest mentorship relationships possible. To facilitate this, I think that mentors should do periodic check-ins, as well as specific check-ins closer to stressful periods like deadlines and finals, to see if their mentor could benefit from anything, whether it’s a study break or some coffee delivery.
Every connection you make in law school can benefit you down the line. Classmates, professors, and practitioners you network with may become business-generating clients or collaborators on legal matters and other initiatives. It is always better to have more friends in the profession. Through learning about your mentee’s experiences, strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, and sharing your own, you are implicitly networking and identifying areas of common interests. Not so far off in the future, you might be working together!
5. Small and flexible commitment
Mentorship is often not a clearly defined commitment, with plenty of room for both the mentor and mentee to shape the interactions. In general, the time commitment is small and flexible to suit personal schedules. Communications can happen in person as well as through texts and calls. If you sign up as a mentor, I encourage you to give some thought about how to keep in touch and ensure that your mentee feel comfortable to reach out whenever needed.
6. Learn about successful and healthy mentorship relationships
Mentors and sponsors abound in the legal profession, and they can serve as important advocates for young attorneys hoping to advance their career goals. Navigating these relationships successfully takes work and thought. You have to be considerate of their time and workload, but not afraid to voice your questions and concerns. I have heard from attorneys about these tips to be a good mentee: Be helpful to your mentor, proactively ask questions, seek to understand your mentor’s preferences and work style. Participating in a mentorship program in law school is great way to understand how mentees and mentors can behave in ways that keep both parties invested in the relationship.
I hope you see the many benefits of being a mentor! Whether you become a formal mentor or not, it is always a wonderful thing to be generous with your knowledge and kindness. And yes, it comes back around.
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