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Making the Most of Having a Mentor

I tried to think of a better opening sentence for this post than "mentors come in all shapes and sizes" but it's true, so I'm going to go with it. They can also come from all sorts of different places and assist and advise you in many different ways. Mentors can be extremely helpful if you can build the right relationship with them. Here's a few aspects of a mentor/mentee relationship to think about to help you out in law school.

How to get a mentor

I would say I have four law school mentors right now. Two of them are official; one alumni mentor I was connected with through my school, and one older student I was connected with through a student organization. Two of them are unofficial (and probably don't even know I refer to them as my mentors lol); one I knew really well in undergrad and is a 2L at a different school, and one that went to my undergraduate school (but I didn't know her then) and is a 2L at my current school.

How and when to meet with your mentors

If you get matched up as mentee/mentor through your school or a club, there will likely be some sort of mentor-mixer event to facilitate an initial meeting. If not, set one up yourself. Meeting at a coffee shop is a great go-to option.

In the first meeting, get to know each other. Ask about their journey in law school or their legal career, and share with them how you're feeling about yours so far. Evaluate how frequently you want to meet or communicate. Some mentors are great at helping you out via email, and meeting face to face isn't always necessary.

If you have an unofficial mentor then you probably have already met and can skip that first part. The same face-to-face versus electronic communication consideration applies.

Things to ask and tell your mentor

What do you do? What do you like and dislike most about your job? What are you most proud of in your career? What do you wish you had done differently? What advice to you give to all law students? What study habits/life tips got you through law school? Asking initial questions like this can create a path for the kind of relationship you will have with your mentor. Maybe they will give you excellent advice for school, or maybe they are better suited to help you in the professional world. This will also help identify similarities you share as well as their personal strengths that they can share with you.

Unofficial mentors are often people you know that have already been through what you're going through. These are great people that you can ask more specific questions about what they did on their applications, in classes, for studying, if they have outlines, getting stressed out, etc.

Remember that by serving as your mentor, they are doing you the favor of giving you their time and expertise. Lawyers and law students are busy people, so always remind them that you appreciate what they're doing for you.

Why have a mentor?

Mentors have been where you are. Whether an older law student or a working lawyer, they have successfully gotten through the assignments/anxieties that you're currently going through. It's also good to have someone to go to for advice that isn't a parent/sibling/grandparent/lifelong best friend.

Also, networking is crucial in the legal field. The more substantial professional relationships you can build, the more doors will open for you. If your mentor knows of a job opening that is suitable to you, you want to be one of the first people they think of. If you are professional, on time, and treat your mentor with respect, they are more likely to welcome you into their established network. Additionally, if you have questions about a field of work that your mentor is unfamiliar in, they can likely connect you with someone who knows more about it. When this happens, you not only get your questions answered but you get to build another relationship!

A final thing to think about is paying it forward. Because I have already learned so much from my mentors, I am more willing to give other people advice who are applying or considering applying to law school. If you have a successful mentor experience, share that by becoming someone else's mentor down the line!

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