A mentor’s on their resolutions list … Can your bar association help?
When we turned the calendar to 2018, younger lawyers and law students probably made a list of personal and professional goals they would like to achieve this year. One of those goals is likely to find a mentor who can help them adjust to the legal profession, guide them through their specific practice area, or help them in their job search (through resume review or informational interviews on where to apply). Bar associations can help achieve these goals by putting their members out there in a mentorship program.
Of course, mentorship programs are as varied as the kinds of bars that sponsor them. A state bar could have a program that’s different from a county bar association’s, and a women’s affinity bar might work differently from a bar association focused on employment law.
The American Bar Association has used a great first-step strategy: starting with resume review, working out the kinks, and then figuring out what to move onto next. The ABA Law Student Division’s staff put together a program to compile resumes that could be reviewed by lawyers across the country. The resume reviews allow the lawyer to email the edits to the law student and potentially answer any further questions the law student may have. As part of this program, one of the writers of this article (Jo) conducted a phone interview with one of the law students who was interested in some legal career advice beyond the resume edits.
By starting small and working on relationships between law students and lawyers, the ABA has created a pilot program that will keep law students engaged beyond their time in school because of the tangible benefits they received as a student. If you start small with a resume review program and work out the kinks as you go, your association could grow a review program into a career advice interview program, which would then develop into mentor/mentee relationships. These tiered relationships will become cyclical, with your inaugural class of resume reviewees wanting to be the next class of resume reviewers, creating more relationships organically—and growing your association.
Tip: Mentorship programs often fizzle out for many reasons, not the least of which is that we’re talking about busy law students and even busier lawyers. Set defined parameters for both mentee and mentor, for a limited commitment. For example, 1) one meeting in person, 2) one follow-up (in person, a call, or perhaps an email, depending on the mentee’s objective), and 3) one connection, introduction, or other action to help the mentee further whatever goal or objective the mentor and mentee talked about. Of course, a relationship can continue beyond that, but having this limited, defined obligation from the start creates solid expectations.