Regent University School of Law started a mentor program several years ago in which incoming students are paired with practicing lawyers and judges who can serve as professional mentors to students during their time in law school. The purpose of the program is not for the mentor to help find the student a job; rather it is to help the student develop his or her professional identity by talking with the mentor about the mentor’s area of practice and the ethical and professional development issues the mentor has faced. The mentorship experience allows participating students to learn from their mentors the character traits and professional development skills the mentors believe are important for the students’ success in the legal profession.
Dean Natt Gantt and Professor Ben Madison, co-founders of CEFLER, discussed expectations of the program, how and how often to contact mentors, and what mentees should discuss with mentors at their first and subsequent meetings. Students learned the characteristics of a successful mentee, mentor activity possibilities, and aspects of a healthy mentor relationship.
Teaching Beyond the Classroom2L students Corrie Faith Lee and Chris Dunn spoke to students about their first-year experience with their mentors. Corrie shared how she was able to form a trust-based professional relationship with her assigned mentor early in their relationship. She described how the relationship with her mentor has helped to enhance her professionalism, self-confidence, and legal skills.
Chris also shared important lessons he has learned from his mentorship experience. He encouraged students to realize that their professional success depends on more than their knowledge of the law and legal skills—that their professional relationships and emotional intelligence matter.
Chris described several “job shadowing experiences” that he had with his mentor that provided many practical and professional “insider” strategies that came as a result of his mentor experience. For example, Chris discussed how his mentor has helped him know how to handle inevitable ethical situations, deal with demanding clients, and navigate the local court system. He also shared that his mentor helped him develop strategies to career plan effectively.
Lastly, CEFLER mentor program coordinator Diane Hess-Hernandez encouraged students to let the mentor-mentee relationship develop organically and to use the support at Regent Law if mentees have questions or any issues arise with trying to connect with a mentor.