When you decide to become a mentor for a law student you are making a very wise decision for both yourself and the law student. I have had the pleasure of acting as a mentor for Chapman law students for the past several years.
While law schools do their best to train their students as to the “real world” of what it is like to work in a law firm, their emphasis is on teaching students the law. And while practical skills classes and clinical courses help students, after they pass the bar exam they are entering a world that is very foreign to them and they no longer have the guidance of a law professor.
When law students become young lawyers they are most often not ready to begin their legal career. However, if they have the benefit of being mentored by an experienced lawyer they receive the benefit of learning from the ground up what it is like to practice law. When I work with a “mentee” I start by showing the mentee how you meet with and convince a client to retain your services.
We then explain about retainer agreements, quoting fees to clients, etc. We also discuss the importance of truly caring about your clients. Most importantly, we talk about keeping regular contact with your client by phone and email.
This type of insider information is only possible through a mentorship program.
In addition, we have our mentees go to court with our lawyers so they learn what court is all about and how to handle court hearings before a judge. The students have also had the opportunity to watch court hearings when our associates appear in court on our cases. By the time the mentor-mentee relationship ends many of our mentees continue to stay involved with our law firm in different ways. Some will become law clerks for us. Some will write blogs or content for our websites. All of our mentees keep in touch when they have questions.
I am constantly amazed at the level of professionalism shown by each Chapman law student whom I have mentored. The students are excited about learning about criminal defense and family law in the “real world”. These students have been able to listen to new client calls and sit in on new client consultations. These cases range from those accused of serious felonies to traffic infractions.
So what is the benefit to the mentor by doing all of this? The benefit is that you get an opportunity to “give back” by helping law students become prepared to be lawyers. You are doing the public a favor because members of the public will have the good fortune in the future of hiring these young lawyers. The future lawyers that you helped train will be ready to do a good job for their clients.
It really makes you feel good to help a law student. You are doing the law student a favor. You are doing the law school where they are attending a favor. You are doing society a favor and more importantly you are doing yourself a favor.
I strongly encourage any law student at Chapman to take the opportunity to get involved in the mentor-mentee program that your law school offers. While law schools do their best to train their students to become lawyers, it is the actual seeing how a law office runs and going to court that makes the law school education process much more complete.
Paul Wallin is a founding partner of the
Wallin and Klarich Law firm
that covers criminal and family law cases throughout southern California. He has held notable positions such as past Chairman of the Criminal Law Section of Orange County Bar Association, a past Delegate to the California State Bar Convention, and presiding Fee Arbitrator for Orange County Bar Association. He has taught at UC Irvine and is a mentor in the
Chapman University Fowler School of Law Attorney Mentor Program
The views expressed here are those of the author and not the law school.