Careers > Students > Legal Scoop > Building Effective Mentoring Partnerships
10 Nov '17

Whether you are completing your 1L semester or are approaching law school graduation, you have most likely sought guidance along the way. Developing a relationship with someone who has been in your shoes can be invaluable to you.

In this post, we will examine some of the key reasons that you can benefit from having a mentor.

Why You Need a Mentor

Having a mentor is essential to your professional development, both in law school and in law practice. A good mentor will provide guidance and support to help you maximize your potential, stay motivated and achieve your goals.

Law school is a challenging and exciting time, full of first experiences. A quality mentor can be incredibly valuable in navigating these firsts and giving practical advice. To name just a few, these are topics about which you may have questions:

  • a balance between studying and school organizations
  • exam tips
  • determination of a career path and practice area fit
  • bar preparation
  • the transition from law school student to practicing attorney.

Once you begin practicing law, a positive mentoring relationship is paramount to your success. A mentor can teach you how to avoid everyday pitfalls in your transition from law school to law practice, which will give you a competitive advantage. Investing time and developing a strong relationship with your mentor will help you navigate issues such as:

  • managing competing deadlines and priorities
  • maximizing efficiency while producing quality work
  • giving and receiving constructive feedback
  • communicating effectively with lawyers and support staff
  • lawyer well-being.

Identifying a Mentor

The process of identifying and selecting a mentor is different for each person. It may take effort, or it may happen organically. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I envision a mentor and mentee relationship?
  • What characteristics does my ideal mentor possess?
  • What goals do I hope to achieve as a result of my mentor's guidance?
  • How much time am I willing to invest?

Once you have given some thought to those questions, it will be time to start networking and identifying potential mentors. This may sound daunting. How do you begin to find someone who is willing to serve in this capacity and possesses the necessary qualities for a successful partnership? Consider utilizing the following resources:

  • career services
  • law school alumni
  • undergrad and/or law school professors and teaching assistants
  • student organizations
  • local bar associations
  • friends and family.

The importance of networking cannot be underestimated. Let everyone know that you are looking for a mentor. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there—the hard work will pay off!

Getting the Most Out of Your Mentoring Relationships

Below are some tips for creating and maintaining a successful relationship once a mentor has been identified.

  • state your expectations and goals for the relationship from the beginning
  • discuss how often you would like to communicate and the preferred method (i.e. email, phone, in person)
  • do not be afraid to ask questions; be open and honest in your communications
  • show your commitment to the relationship by being respectful of your mentor's time; be appreciative
  • take initiative in the relationship; mentorship is a two-way street
  • do not expect your mentor to solve your problems, but rather to help you identify solutions.

Mentorship is a powerful career development tool that can enable you to achieve your personal and professional aspirations. Remember that your role of mentee is just as important as the role of your mentor. Ample time must be invested on both sides in order to create a valuable and lasting relationship. In the end, you will greatly enhance your chances of success if you are open-minded, have a positive attitude, and are willing and eager to learn from your mentor.