Monday, May 9, 2016

The one thing you need to know...

Over the course of the semester, I give out countless pieces of advice to my students. You should use a Boolean search. Keep the timekeeping function open as you work. Stop using semicolons like glitter; they are not decorative.

In the end, who knows what sticks and what is instantly forgotten? Often, students ask me during our last meeting if I have any parting advice. Some say this simply to be nice and some are genuinely interested in my response. Either way, I recognize the opportunity. I know this is a chance to say something they will likely remember. I always give the same response: you need mentors.

Many of my students have not put much thought into mentorship. My advice gives us an opportunity to discuss their career ambitions and identify individuals who can help them achieve these goals. Generally, I encourage students to take the following active steps:

  • Create a mentorship strategy
    • As mentors are offering to help you during their free time, it is important to be respectful and considerate. Spend time identifying the areas in which you would like advice. Be sure to share your long term and short terms goals with your mentors.
  • Create a network of mentors
    • One mentor is never enough. You may start your legal career and then move into a different market or field. You will need mentors at every stage to help you.
    • The above point should not preclude you from finding mentors in your area or workplace. Do you know you want to become In House Counsel for the World Wildlife Federation? It is probably not helpful to be mentored by a Big Law Partner in Patent Litigation. Find mentors in your field, or better yet – in the job you want!
    • Be aware that your mentorship needs will change and be prepared to add new mentors to your network accordingly. After having my first child, I struggled with balancing work and motherhood. I was fortunate to have many wonderful mentors who offered advice on everything from the glass ceiling to managing travel with an infant.
  • Strategies for finding mentors
    • Reach out to the State Bar Association
      • The State Bar often has formal programs matching mentors with new attorneys.
      • Minority Bar Associations and Diversity Committees are also an excellent resource for connecting mentors and mentees.
    • Reach out to your Alumni Association
      • Be expansive! Do not limit your mentor search to your law school. Reach out to your undergraduate or other institutions for potential mentors.
  • Listen & Learn!
    • Sure the market has changed drastically in the last decade, but mentors have also weathered these tumultuous economic times. You do not need to follow all of their advice. However, it is in your best interest to hear what they have to say.

Finally, I encourage all my students to give back. I tell them not to wait until they have “made it.” There will always be a recent grad looking for guidance. There is no one better to help them than you.

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