From how to find a mentor in law school to what questions you should ask, you'll find essential advice for making the most of these invaluable relationships below.
“My mentor has given me great advice and helped me make some tough decisions about my future.”
“It was so beneficial to be linked with a member of the legal community who is practicing in the area that I want to practice in.”
“There was everything to gain and nothing to lose by being in the [mentoring] program.”
A mentor can make a big difference when you’re in law school. Just ask the students quoted above. (They all participated in the New England Law | Boston Bridge to Success Mentor Program.)
With a law school mentor, you have an invaluable opportunity to gain real-world advice and guidance from a legal professional. You might talk about your career goals, the day-to-day realities of a legal practice, different types of practice, how to successfully join a legal work environment, career networking, job search strategies and skills, work-life balance, and more. So don't let it go to waste!
Follow these tips to have great law school mentoring experiences.
First, you need to find a mentor…
You might find a mentor in law school through:
- Student organizations and extracurricular activities
- Internship and externship placements
- Law school clinic placements
- Networking events (both sponsored by your law school and offered in your community, like through the chamber of commerce)
- Professor recommendations
- Simply asking your network: friends, family, former employers, etc.
Many law schools, including New England Law, facilitate formal mentoring, pairing students with professionals and even upper-class students who share their legal interests, backgrounds, and goals.
For example, New England Law offers multiple mentorship programs for law students, including:
- Law Student Mentorship Program, where incoming law students are paired with current students before classes even begin. The mentor helps the new student adjust to law school during that critical first year.
- Bridge to Success Mentor Program, where students are specially matched with alumni mentors based on legal interest, common background, and more.
How to connect with your mentor
Finding time for a busy law student and busy working lawyer to connect can be tricky, but these tips should help you develop a good mentoring relationship.
- Initiate monthly contact with your mentor by phone or email. Don’t wait for your mentor to contact you.
- If you’re both local, schedule in-person meetings with your mentor at the beginning of the program, so you will have dates reserved well in advance.
- Schedule any phone calls with your mentor in advance to reserve a mutually convenient time to talk.
- Use school-sponsored and local professional events as a reason to meet.
- Connect with your mentor via LinkedIn.
- Use Skype or Google Hangouts to “meet” with a long-distance mentor.
- If you happen to be planning a visit to a mentor’s home turf, try to schedule an in-person meeting.
Questions to ask your mentor
Even though you should have the freedom to ask about the academic and professional issues that are important to you, the following basic questions are a great place to start.
- How is what I am learning in school different from what it will be like practicing?
- How did you become a [insert practice area] attorney?
- What is a typical work day like for you?
- What types of cases/projects are you currently working on?
- If I am interested in [insert practice area], what can I do to make myself an attractive candidate for employment by the time I graduate?
- Can you suggest law school classes I should take to be successful in [insert practice area] and on the bar exam?
- Can you recommend any professional organizations that might be useful for me to join?
- Did you work while you were a law student? If so, where?
- How did you get your first job after law school?
- Can you review my resume (and/or cover letter)?
Tips to remember
You will get as much out of a mentorship as you put into it, so give the relationship the time, dedication, and respect it deserves.
- Set clear goals and expectations for the mentorship at the beginning.
- Follow your mentor’s lead. For example, if they keep their emails professional, stick with that tone.
- Prepare any questions, discussion topics, and materials you may need in advance and have them with you for your meetings or calls.
- If your mentor gives you “homework,” like researching a particular industry before your next talk, do it.
- Always dress professionally when meeting your mentor at their office. (Even if you meet at a coffee shop, business casual is likely the way to go.)
- Approach your mentor with an open mind—you never know what you may learn from them!
There you have it: tons of tips for making the most of those special and often invaluable mentor experiences in law school. And who knows? You might find yourself as a mentor to a law student someday!
The Career Services Office at New England Law | Boston facilitates multiple mentorship programs, in addition to providing one-on-one coaching and preparing students for their future careers throughout law school and after they graduate.
Explore law school mentoring opportunities here.