How to find a law school mentor and maintain the relationship


[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

We have all heard how important it is to have a mentor in law school and within the legal field. It seems as though our first legal mentor is a designated student who helps guide us through our 1L and beyond by providing advice, being a friendly ear to listen to our challenges, and of course, to provide outlines. Finding a mentor who is already practicing can be a bit more challenging. Here are some tips I learned this week from a diverse panel of lawyers about how to find mentors and more importantly, effectively maintain those relationships.

Finding a Mentor

The best mentor/mentee relationships grow organically through shared beliefs or interests. For this reason, one of the best ways to find a mentor is by joining and attending specialized Bar association group meetings and activities. By joining a variety of these groups, you are more likely to meet likeminded practicing attorneys. From there, you can meet a variety of people and see who you “click” with. Perhaps within the organization, they have a group that meets up for activities that you enjoy. For instance, I have discovered that within these associations, there is usually a small group that gets together for outside activities like golfing, hiking, or volunteering. The basis of your shared beliefs does not always have to be legally based; often, these relationships grow best through shared experiences.

Know What You Want and Need

One of the best takeaways I had from the panel was that it is ok, and you should have more than one mentor. The legal field is complex, and you cannot expect one person to be everything. For this reason, it is helpful to have multiple mentors. Consider where you need help and guidance, and if you recognize that someone has the trait or the ability you are looking to emulate, reach out to them. This is often easier if you have already met them through a school function or bar association meeting, but do not be shy in sending an email or reaching out on LinkedIn to ask someone to meet you for coffee or lunch. If you know what you want and why you want to meet with them, this can help you clearly articulate your request and increase the likelihood that they will accept. This meeting can help you grow the relationship. If you “click” you can ask them if they would be open to meeting again in the future, or if they would be welcoming if you reached out again. That is all it takes; you do not have to formally ask them to be your mentor, at least not at first.

Maintaining a relationship

Maintaining the Relationship

If you have met a mentor through a bar association, maintaining contact with them is fairly easy, because you are likely to see each other each month at meetings, or every other month. However, maintaining a relationship can be more difficult when you do not have an activity or meeting in common. One of the hardest things I had found is reaching out when “too” much time has passed. The panel suggested sending update emails, just to let them know how you are doing, even if you are not asking for advice. Try to communicate every six months or so at a minimum. That may seem like too long, but everyone agreed that time flies when you are a practicing attorney. The email can simply just be checking in or following up with them about how you used a piece of their advice, and how you are doing now.

Remember, It Is a Relationship

One thing the panel all agreed upon was to remember that this is a relationship.  Do not be the person who reaches out for help finding a position, and then be silent for another two years until your job search begins again. A mentorship is not always about what you want and need; it is also about the ongoing relationship that you have with the person. Sending follow up emails to provide updates, goes a long way here. Also, be direct and ask them if there is anything they would like from the relationship. Many mentors sim like helping new lawyers find their way; however, ask if there is anything you can do for them. For one of my mentors, I help them with technology and navigating social media. I enjoy that I can help contribute and add value to our mentor/mentee relationship.

What tips or questions do you have about the mentor/mentee relationships? Let me know over at the @The2LLife on Instagram or Twitter!

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