January 20, 2017

1_L_Mentoring_GP

IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO SEEK OUT A MENTOR

By: Sean O’D. Bosack
Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Now that you have your first semester of law school, and first set of exams, under your belt, hopefully, much of the initial anxiety with beginning law school has subsided.  After being rejuvenated by virtue of the winter break, it is important that you now begin to consider how you may spend the summer between your first and second year and how you may construct your curriculum for your second and third years of law school.  While it may strike you as early and daunting to begin mapping out your future now, you will be surprised how fast time flies.  Consider seeking out a mentor—some support may make you more comfortable, more effective, and a mentor can help de-mystify the road ahead.

You may be wondering, what can a mentor do for me now?  The answer is a lot.  If you struggled during your first semester of law school, a mentor may be able to help you develop study habits and discipline to improve your performance.  A mentor can give you insight into the types of clinical opportunities, courses, seminars, and summer internships available that provide experiences that will make you attractive to prospective employers.  Similarly, a mentor can help you decide whether it is worth the effort to try to write on to your school’s Law Review.  Moreover, a mentor can give you insight into how to navigate the on-campus recruiting program you will confront when you return to start your second year and how to begin to establish a network of contacts that may lead to your first job. 

Are you wondering who could mentor you?  There are lots of potential mentors who can help you in different ways.  First, consider third-year students in leadership positions who have already secured their first jobs.  They can share experiences ranging from how they overcame first year struggles and emerged successful, service on Law Review, on-campus interviewing, and clinical programs.  Among other things, they can provide practical advice as to how to manage your time, how to prepare for interviews, and tips for writing publishable works.  Second, professors are frequently looking for research assistants.  Landing such a role with a professor will afford you one-on-one access that will inevitably lead to opportunities for mentorship.  Third, consider attending a couple of local bar events, such as an Inns of Court meeting, if your schedule permits.  Typically, local bar associations welcome law students, and attending will provide the opportunity to meet local practitioners.  Trust me, they will be flattered and impressed if you invite them to have coffee to discuss their practice, path to success, and your goals, as well as your concerns.

While navigating the law school experience can seem like a daunting task, there are many sources of support available to you.  You don’t need to go it alone.  By taking the reins and investing some time in your future now, you can learn from others who overcame the very struggles you are experiencing now. You can also position yourself to hit the ground running when you return for your second year ready to tackle challenges associated with on-campus recruiting, more advanced networking, Law Review, and developing a curriculum to help you find satisfying work in a practice area you are passionate about after you graduate.  The future starts now!