Why Do We Need Mentors?
- To introduce the law school student to appropriate norms and behaviors of the profession.
- To help the student recognize ethical dilemmas more quickly.
- To help the practice of law reach a higher level of professionalism with better prepared lawyers.
- To help reduce the stress of the unknown experienced by law students as they prepare to enter the profession.
- To help make you a better, more professional lawyer.
What Does a Mentor Do?
In general, a mentor:
- Offers support and encouragement
- Provides advice and guidance
- Helps to bypass bureaucracy and provide access to resources – ‘informal networking’
- Uses their position to help the student gain an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge & skills
- Clarifies the values and goals, the “big picture” and “unwritten rules,” of the legal profession
- Coaches and provides corrective feedback
- Provides information to help student avoid harmful situations
- Serves as a role model, demonstrating appropriate job behaviors, attitudes and social skills
- While you may wish to offer career advice and assistance, you are NOT expected or obligated to offer employment to this student
Why should I participate as a mentor?
- Your duty to the legal profession – you help enhance the spirit and intent of the lawyer’s code of conduct by promoting professionalism
- Your duty to the public - as an officer of the court, whether in private or government service, you have a duty to insure the high ethical and professional standards designed to protect the public.
- Your reputation – the public’s trust and confidence in the whole professional group is influenced by each lawyer’s performance.
- Reflection and returning the favor- Mentoring forces you to reflect on what you are doing as a lawyer and allows you to experience a fresh sense of accomplishment.
My student does not respond to my e-mails. What can I do to encourage responses?
Keep trying. Ask different questions about classes, goals and school related activities. This may be one case where you could try short, yes/no questions, so the student can give a short response. You could try using open-ended questions (why, what, where, how) in hopes that the student may find a topic of interest to write about. Explain how valuable a mentoring relationship can be in one of your e-mails. If you do not get a response after several tries (at least 4 times), send a final email informing them that you hope they are able to find a mentor and wishing them luck with their legal studies. Then, you can contact the Center for Professionalism and ask for a new student.
How much time should I spend communicating with the student?
This can be set out during your initial contact with the student. The on-line nature lends itself to great flexibility in participation and scheduling.
How long will the mentoring relationship last?
Most of law students attend law school for 3 years. Part-time students could go for 4 or more years. We hope that you would consider mentoring the student until they graduate. After that, the relationship is entirely up to you and the student.
What resources are available to assist me in my mentoring role?
The Center for Professionalism website at www.flabar.org/professionalism will post relevant information including CLE programs on mentoring.
Are my conversations with the student confidential and/or privileged?
Generally, the student should feel comfortable asking you any question. They should be assured that you will not be judgmental about their questions and concerns. However, they should also be aware of your obligations to the legal profession and duties under the Rules of Professional Conduct.
What are the qualifications for becoming a mentor?
A lawyer who has practiced for at least five years, has had no disciplinary action against them and is in good standing with The Florida Bar may serve as a mentor to a student.
How do I first contact the student?
You will receive the student’s name and email address electronically. The student will, in turn, be receiving your name and email address. You may want to send an introductory email to the student in the beginning.
How do I become a mentor?
Go to www.flabar.org/ementor to sign up.
How do I ask for an additional student or get a new student when my student graduates?
If you have time to mentor another law student, please contact the Center for Professionalism at email@example.com and request an additional student’s name.
What happens if the student raises a question or situation that I do not feel capable of answering? Questions such as: “I committed a felony, should I tell my law school or The Board of Bar Examiners?” or they discuss client information learned while clerking for a firm?
This goes back to your obligation as a licensed member of the Bar.
How can I learn more techniques to help become a more effective mentor?
A Mentor Training CLE will be available from the Center for Professionalism. Contact the Center at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about availability and ordering.