Mentor in Law is a biweekly newsletter for law students, recent grads, and lawyers about everything law school doesn’t teach you, particularly the practical skills. Newsletters will feature advice on how to get into different fields of law from practicing lawyers, how to maximize your law school experience from law professors, how to navigate opportunities beyond the law from non-practicing lawyers, and how to build a successful career both in and out of the law. It’s a self-contained email newsletter, so the advice is succinct, actionable, and to the point, without fluff or long-form narratives. The inaugural issue came out on June 20, 2020, and subsequent issues will be published on the 1st and 15th of every month.
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VOLUME 1 | JUNE 2020
Practice area spotlight: Public International Law
Contributors: T. Michael Peay, Aneesh Mehta, and Riya Kuo
Why Mentorship Matters
men · tor
noun, an experienced and trusted adviser
Whether you’re a law student or already a lawyer, one of the best things you can do for your career is to seek out a mentor/group of mentors. In the legal profession, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a mentor. Law school teaches you to understand and apply the law, but it does not prepare you adequately to practice law or teach you how to be a lawyer. The right mentor can provide advice, connections, and support that can help you reach heights that would be impossible alone. Mentorship is an even more important asset in today’s down market because the world is not operating under “business as usual.”
- Assemble your personal dream team. There are different types of mentors, and you should consider seeking out the different kinds. A few to consider: connector, coach, challenger, champion, and role model. But focus on quality over quantity. I consider 5 as my magic number of mentors at any given time. Everyone has an opinion but be discerning about whose advice you take. Cultivate a small group of people who will always be in your corner whenever you need support or help in your career. Find people whose work you respect, who you may want to be like, and who you feel comfortable with. As you change jobs and move different directions in your career, this “dream team” will likely change as well. While you should have at least one mentor who directly understands your work and field, consider also finding mentors outside of your practice area or industry. Sometimes, all you need is a completely fresh perspective.
- Be thoughtful and intentional with your outreach. There are both informal and formal channels for finding a mentor, and both have their value. For formal programs, reach out to your law school, alumni networks, local/national bar associations, etc. to see what’s available. For informal mentors, do your due diligence on your potential mentor before reaching out. Follow their work on social media, research their practice area, check if they have published any articles, see if you have any mutual connections, attend an event that they’re speaking at, etc. Reach out with a genuine, personalized message and anchor it in a mutual interest/contact or something you found interesting in their work. Instead of focusing on what YOU need, consider what value you can offer them. Most often, relationships evolve organically into mentorships (and then friendships), but sometimes you have to be direct and make the “ask.” Generally, do not ask someone to be your mentor unless you already know the answer is “yes,” but even then, they still may say no, and that’s completely fine. You both move on.
- Mentorship is a give and take relationship (and not a transaction). As a young professional, it may feel like you may not have much to offer initially, but at the very least, be immensely respectful and appreciative of your mentor’s time and advice. They are under no obligation to help you or give their time so generously, so to ensure it’s a mutually enriching experience, be punctual, show gratitude, and be proactive. Be flexible with scheduling, show up on time, come prepared with focused questions, send thank you emails/notes, follow through with the advice if you say you will, update your mentor on how it’s going, and be of service when you can. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of following through with the advice and keeping your mentor updated on how their advice worked out for you. This is fundamental to establishing a productive, long-term relationship. Think of mentorship as a marathon, not a sprint.