Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why every law student needs a mentor

From the always informative Lawyerist blog:

Learn things you won’t learn in law school

Law school teaches you lots of great things. Mostly, it teaches you how to think, talk, and act like a lawyer. Although law school curriculums are starting to include more practical skill classes (which I recommend), the majority of classes are substantive, not skills-based.

That’s why having a mentor is so important. Instead of doing a mock deposition with your classmates, you can watch a practicing attorney take or defend one. Even better, you can pick their brain before and after to see how they prepare and how they thought it went.

A good mentor should give tell you how to succeed in law school, how to move past bad law school grades, and how to make the most of your law school experience. Perhaps most importantly, they will pass on little bits of knowledge that can’t be described or categorized—but they are pieces of wisdom you will rely on for your entire career.

Learn how things (don’t) work

Not only is it important to watch lawyers do things the right way, it’s perhaps more valuable to watch them do it the wrong way. I’m not suggesting you find yourself a terrible mentor, and I’m not suggesting that most attorneys are incompetent.

I am suggesting, however, that even the best attorneys second-guess themselves and wish they could do ____ differently during a case. Watching them make those decisions and then analyze what went right (and wrong) is invaluable. One, you will benefit from their mistake and will hopefully not make the same decision when you are an attorney. Two, you will learn why it’s called the practice of law, not the perfection of law.

When you realize that even the best attorneys make mistakes, that should make you even more wary and protect against making those same mistakes.

If you want to know how finding a mentor might lead you to a good job with one of her colleagues, click here.


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