This past school year has had its share of highs and lows, but I can attribute some if not most of my success to the mentors who provided me with sound advice and guidance throughout school, the hunt for employment and life in general. I have three people I turn to consistently when faced with an issue, and I can’t recommend having a mentor enough! Mentorship means different things for different people. For some, it’s an informal lunch or chat over coffee; for others, it’s a formal meeting. Either way, having a mentor throughout law school is of tremendous value.
I learned very quickly in 1L that I had no idea what I was doing. From balancing classes, the workload, extracurricular activities and the “hype,” it was tough to figure out what was important and what was noise. Fortunately, my school offers a peer mentorship program that pairs first years with upper-year students. While it remains a mystery as to what precise criteria matched us, my mentor and I worked perfectly.
At least once a month, my mentor and I arranged to meet to talk about my classes and the various assignment deadlines I had coming up. She spent hours with me pouring over my resumé and cover letters, making sure they were perfect. She was particularly helpful when I was preparing for my first-year moot. She helped me edit and practise my submissions, and gave me tips to calm my nerves on the day of the moot. Even after participating in my fourth moot, I still employ her techniques.
If your school does not have a formal peer mentorship program, take the initiative. Do not be afraid to approach an upper-year student — most (if not all) are happy and eager to help. Despite only a year apart, upper-year students have “been there and done that.” Your conversations can be candid and relaxed. They know exactly how you’re feeling for exams, what it is like to get a “bad grade” and how overwhelming the entire law school experience can be. They may even be able to tell you what courses or professors to avoid — there’s always one!
It was not until this school year that I sought out a professional mentor. With some very important career decisions to make, I reached out to a sessional instructor I hold in very high esteem. Despite her busy schedule, she made time to speak with me and treated my concerns seriously. She listened to my many questions and offered advice from a variety of perspectives. As she knew a bit more about my personality and drive, she was able to pinpoint the heart of the issue. Our meeting gave me confidence to make the right decisions. As a result of this first meeting, my mentor and I meet up on a regular basis. When she is a bit too busy, she makes time for a phone call.
I highly recommend students find a professional or professorial mentor. For instance, if you connect with a certain professor’s ideals or personality, reach out and ask them for advice (if you need it). Not only will they give reasonable advice, but this may open several other doors. When they have research work to offer or know of their colleague’s need for a research assistant, your name will likely be on the short list of candidates. In addition, professors have contacts in the legal industry and can offer many networking opportunities.
Find someone you respect and admire and ask them for their advice. Having a person (and you can have more than one) in which to confide, provide solutions to any missteps or provide suggestions for any important decisions will help gain perspectives that have likely been overlooked. Law school is a very overwhelming experience. It is stressful and unrelenting. However, with the right guidance, it is manageable and rewarding.