Five Reasons to Get a Mentor in Law School
Here's a piece of advice for potential and current law students – get a mentor! Many law schools recommend that that applicants and students work with a mentor, but why? And how can you find a good mentor? Read on to find out how a mentor could help you succeed in law school and beyond.
- Student Tips
Most students enter into law school with some idea about the legal profession and an impression of what to expect in law school. But law school is intense, and there's a lot to learn in just three short years. If you have close friends or family who practice law, you might already have a shoulder or two to lean on when it comes to advice about law school and the legal profession, but if you're heading into the world of law on your own, a mentor will be an invaluable part of your studies. Even if you are certain about your studies, or have lawyer or two in the family, finding a mentor and establishing a good relationship with him or her could be one of the best things you do to prepare for law school and beyond. Here are five ways a legal studies mentor can help you maximize the potential of your law school experience and optimize your future career.
1. Get into Law School
You don't need to find a mentor before you begin your legal studies, but it won't hurt, and it could even help you get into the program of your choice. Start researching potential mentors while you're still and undergraduate and focus alumni from schools that interest you. Connecting with a former student of one of your top choices might help you figure out how to apply to that particular school and what to expect during the application process. It's a good idea to choose a mentor who is practicing law, ideally in a field of law that interests you. Regardless of the mentor with whom you connect, they'll be able to give you insight into the entire law-school process from both their own and their friends' and colleagues' perspectives. Check with student-services department at your undergraduate institution to see if they have any pre-law advisers or an alumni mentoring program.
2. Guide Your Path Through Law School
If you establish a mentor relationship with someone who graduated from your law school, you'll have an insider's view on the entire matriculation process. But even if your mentor attended a different school, the should be able to guide you through some of the hurdles of your first year of study or give you advice based on their successes and mistakes. Some law schools even have mentorship programs where second- and third-year students help to introduce first-year students to the school and law-school community. A mentor relationship with a current, but older, student can have a lot of benefits as well – they're only a year or two ahead of you, so their experiences are fresh and relevant, and they have the potential to be a great contact in the post-school world. But practicing legal professionals can also be great mentors. They have the experience and insight to give good advice, and could offer the opportunity to get some hands-on experience during your studies...
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3. Can Give Insight Into Law Fields
Which means they can also help you figure out what sort of law you might be interested in practicing. There's no reason to settle on a field of law during law school, but gaining some idea of the areas you're most interested in can help you make the most of your studies and point you in the direction of potential internships and jobs. Regardless of what sort of law your mentor practices, they're position, experiences, and opinions can help you decide what type of law is right for you.
4. They Can't Do Everything
But don't expect your mentor to be a fairy godmother or a free ticket. A mentor's role is to listen when you have questions, concerns, or frustrations, and to give advice or support when they are able. Don't expect your mentor to write letters of recommendation (or you essays!), and don't assume that they'll be able to set you up with interviews or jobs. Of course, each mentor-student relationship will be different, and some mentors may be more hands-on. But a mentor is not a guarantee of success – and you'll still need to work hard, both in your studies and in maintaining your mentor-student relationship.
5. Can Help Build Your Career
But that doesn't mean that your mentor won't be a valuable asset for your future career, and the mentor-student relationship need not end after graduation. Many students who establish good working relationships with their mentors during law school continue to meet with and take advice from their mentors after their studies are over. Your mentor could give you clues on how to search for and land that first post-study job, help you to make smart choices for progressing in your position and career, or simply remain a wise, experienced friend with whom you can discuss your successes and frustrations as a professional. Even if your mentor-student relationship ends after you finish law school, it's likely that you as a legal professional will have the opportunity to serve as a mentor and the experience of having a mentor will probably influence the way that you guide future students.
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