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While law school can teach us the academic knowledge we require for the profession, exposure to the ‘real world’ of law and guidance beyond law school is often missing.
In my final year at university, I was paired with a criminal barrister as part of a mentoring initiative. In some ways, the programme was formal and followed four hourly sessions with a mentor based on my preferences.
Check out this criminal Barristers’ practice area profile.
Like with many mentoring programmes, I had the flexibility to show my mentoring sessions to get the most out of them. In the first session, I discussed what I wanted to gain from a mentor-mentee relationship and we shared our expectations. This initial session was vital in ensuring I could track my progress and that we had the proper structure in our relationship.
Have a read of this LCN Says: ‘The importance of mentoring in the legal industry.’
Who is a mentor?
Mentoring is a relationship with someone who can help guide you towards the path you want to follow. However, mentoring can mean different things to you depending on where you’re at in your career, the following are key examples of what having a mentor in the early stages of your career can bring:
Despite my mentor’s busy workload, she offered support to me every step of the way. Mentors can help you build your network and connect you to potential employers. Through this experience, I reached out to local law firms that my mentor had previously worked with who were known leaders in their practice areas.
Building connections within the industry is the first stepping-stone to landing your dream job. It’s also worth building connections to cultivate future mentor-mentee relationships as each person will offer you different, learning perspectives.
2. Work experience
I gained first-hand insight into the legal industry by engaging in the programme. During the work experience, I had the opportunity to shadow the barrister at a court hearing. Work experience was key to helping me to understand the different types of areas of law and legal professions. I also gained an insight into the content of court bundles and police interview systems.
Finding a mentor that can give you work experience to enhance your CV and help you demonstrate your passion for that area of law. As such, this enables you to know whether you want to practise in their area of law or whether there is an area more suited to you.
3. CV review
A CV review with your mentor can instantly make you more employable. Your mentor is likely to have gone through either the same path as you or a similar path. They are likely to know what recruiters look out for when reviewing your CV and recall the steps that they had to take to enhance their CVs.
A CV review can also be great for checking your spelling, grammar and punctuation to spot mistakes you may not have otherwise thought of. Having a mentor during the application season can be helpful as they can be on hand to check your CV throughout and application throughout the process. Most importantly, if your CV is lacking in any area, your mentor can point you in the right direction to add to what is missing.
4. Interview practice
One of the key benefits of having a mentor is having someone practice interview questions with you. Working one-on-one with my mentor helped me to develop vital skills that to this day I still use in my interview preparation. The experience you have during a mentoring programme will also aid you to answer key questions such as “Why Law” and “Why this firm”.
5. Advocacy/public speaking training
Advocacy and public speaking training may not be for everyone, but if you’re an aspiring barrister looking to enter a litigious area of law or you simply want to boost your presentation skills and confidence then having a mentor can assist you with these skills.
The next step
The next step for you is to find a mentor. Use your university’s careers service, LinkedIn, and even legal professionals in your workplace. I cannot stress enough how important it is to choose your mentor based on:
After all, you will need to demonstrate a commitment not only to the profession but to your time to build a relationship with your mentor.
Check out this LCN Says: ‘Five ways to make the most of your university’s careers service.’
Read this LCN Blog: ‘Using LinkedIn as a law student.’
I believe finding a great mentor is a great opportunity to drive you forward in your path towards a legal career. So, don’t be afraid to take control of your path and create opportunities for yourself.