Monday, August 07, 2006

Law School - Get a Real Mentor

Some schools offer formal mentorship programs for first year law students. This may link up professors and law students, practitioners and law students, or even lower-year and upper-year law students. My experience with this was abysmal. It may have been fantastic for other classmates or colleagues at other law schools, but for me it was useless. The practitioner that I was assigned to was extremely overworked, overstressed and overcome with emotion about his own career. He signed up for the mentorship program with very good intentions, I am sure, but bit off much more than he could chew. As a result, the time that I was able to squeeze out of him was comparatively futile for both of us. Scheduled appointments were postponed, invitations to attend court cancelled, and the relationship quickly deteriorated and eventually disappeared by my second semester of law school. I have heard similar stories from classmates.

I would highly suggest seeking out a formal mentor of your own choice and finding. A practitioner is great, if you can find one. A family friend or colleague of someone that you know is ideal, as they will feel more inclined to make good on their commitment that they make to you, and may feel more accountable for the relationship. Seek out someone who you perceive to handle stress well, to be on top of their game, and most importantly, who shares some of your interests, both in and out of law school. Try to strike up a professional relationship, but do not be afraid to be friendly.

In my experience, a golf game or coffee with a chosen mentor is worth more than almost anything in law school. A small word of advice from a veteran of the law school and practical legal worlds can save you tons of time and stress, and can really help you in your goals to succeed. A good mentor can also be invaluable when it comes time to apply for a summer job or an article. A practitioner can be an excellent ‘in’ at the law firm that they work for, but also at other firms. Remember, they were once law students, and likely have maintained friendships with their past classmates or co-workers. The legal community is relatively small, and having an ally, or more than one ally, can be like gold when it comes to obtaining employment in your field of choice.

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