The power of mentorship

The power of mentorship
All I did was take them to Boston Pizza. They were gobsmacked when I offered to pay for dinner, as my mentors had done for me not long ago. They were nervous, scared, excited, and eager — everything 1Ls should be. After our dinner was over, they told me just how excited they were to deploy my questionable advice in pursuit of their academic success.

That one dinner made a huge difference in their law school experience, and it had only just begun. That was when I realized the true power of mentorship and just how influential it can be in law school and beyond.

Mentorship takes many forms. It can be as little as providing the occasional checkup, or as much as taking vast swaths of time out of your day to give advice, consolation, or emotional support.

By virtue of my hands-on approach, I’ve been fortunate to have now found many more 1Ls looking for some form of guidance.

I tell them, quite frankly, that they should do things their own way. I tell them whatever they have used to achieve success in the past can be used in law school to the same effect. Perhaps the only difference is that the tachometer of their lives is revved up past the red line, something most likely not asked of them before.

The balancing of academic and non-academic responsibilities is not easy, but I always assure them it can be done. Whether they believe me or not is another story.

2Ls are less likely to need the kind of framing 1Ls do. They are more self-assured, more worldly in the sense they have been through the 1L fire and escaped (mostly) unscathed. I’ve thus far found the mentorship they crave is the most related to OCIs.

It was one thing to help them before they came on their summer firm hops; teaching them how to dress and how not to behave is fairly straightforward. It was another thing to help them with applications and how to construct them so as to best highlight all of the wonderful things they could bring to a firm. But when on-campus interviews finally came, the mentorship took on a completely different tone.

Now, any mentor is put in the unenviable position of trying to explain something that they themselves might not truly understand: how to get a job at a national firm. Whether formally through career services meetings or informally through late-night text messages and hurried conversations between classes, I did the best I could to explain how I thought I presented myself and how I thought I constructed my narrative in such a way as to become gainfully employed — always presenting the caveat that they must be true to themselves and arrange their affairs accordingly.

When many of the 2Ls I mentored were presented with jobs, I felt a sense of pride in knowing that I, in some small way, had contributed to their success. I also felt the same acute sense of rejection when other 2Ls I mentored were not so fortunate.

Upon reflection, I’ve noticed that students (myself included) rarely ask for the kinds of help they need. In many ways, it is the responsibility of a law student mentor to forcefully bring up the issue to make sure those they mentor are as successful as possible. It is not to say that your mentees need a sit-down advice session, or that you even need to give any advice at all. Rather, they need to know that you are available and happy to help should the occasion arise.

The lawyers I worked with in the summer functioned in much the same way. Partners, associates, and articling students all mentor in their own way. Regardless of what type of advice they dispensed, each individual allowed me to take risks and develop my own practice methods while simultaneously giving me the knowledge that, should I stumble, they were there to help me get back up to speed.

It should not be surprising that the law students who are often fiercely independent would not cry out for assistance, but knowing it is available is sometimes all you need.

Mentorship is more than just helping with classes or exams. Mentorship is about building relationships with people you may be fortunate to work with one day, or even more fortunate to call a friend. Mentorship is also about fostering the kind of culture in your law school or firm that is not only conducive to people succeeding, but also to people feeling cared for and appreciated.

Ultimately, I always harken back to the non-bumper sticker version of the famous Gandhi quote: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. . . . We need not wait to see what others do.”

The reason I, and so many of my classmates, take our mentorship roles so seriously is because we want to be the change that we wish to see. Perhaps this is more of a millennial viewpoint, but millenials are not satisfied with the status quo. We feel like we want to make a difference and be a part of something, if only in a small way or for a short time.

I believe mentorship provides the perfect conduit for this and would recommend that you not only take time out of your day to make your wisdom available to those who may need it, but also to receive such wisdom from those willing to dispense it. You will find yourself benefitting in more ways than you ever thought possible, as well as hopefully getting a better grades on your impending exams.

Cole Rodocker is a third-year student at the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law and will be doing his articling year at Blake Cassels and Graydon LLP. He can be reached at ColeDanielRodocker@gmail.com

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