All 1Ls are invited to participate in Notre Dame’s alumni mentorship program. The blog post linked here describes what the program involves and how to sign up but perhaps you’re wondering what actually happens with students in the mentorship program. How does connecting with your mentor help you? Does your mentor really want to hear from you? Earlier this week, I talked with 2L Garrett Packer, who was assigned a mentor in Detroit and will be heading to a firm in Detroit this summer, about his experience with the program.
KMB: When you filled out the mentorship program survey, how did you decide what kind of mentor you wanted?
GP: I knew I wanted to be in Detroit and wanted to do corporate transaction work. Going into law school and the mentorship program, I didn’t know what the main firms in Detroit were so I thought it would be helpful to get connected with a contact in the market to help me navigate the firm world.
KMB: Tell me about your mentor?
GP: I got paired with an Associate at Honigman in Detroit and when I got the email telling me I was paired with him, I didn’t know what that meant. I had never heard of Honigman. Meeting with him, I realized he was pretty legitimate and Honigman was a really good firm in Detroit. Going into our first mentorship lunch, I wasn’t looking for someone to give me a job. I just saw it as him helping me out with a conversation. Throughout the whole process, in the back of my mind, I knew it was a contact I could have at a really great firm in an informal setting that I wouldn’t otherwise have.
KMB: How did meeting with your mentor 1L year affect the OCI process?
GP: Knowing someone at Honigman helped propel me through OCI and get a position at Honigman this summer. Having a familiarity with someone at the firm and having the contact at the firm was really helpful. He was here at ND for screening interviews at OCI but sat out during my interview but he was good friends with the other woman doing interviews.
My mentor was excited to give me the opportunity for a callback and was excited when I got the offer. So we’ve gone back and forth throughout the entire recruiting process. I feel that I can still talk to him about questions I have now. As soon as he heard I accepted the offer, he emailed and said he wanted to meet up for lunch over fall break. His friendliness was a huge draw and really made me want to work for Honigman.
KMB: Getting into the nuts and bolts, after you got paired with your mentor, how did you set up your first meeting?
GP: After I got the pairing email, it took me a week or two to reach out to him. Once I emailed him, he was quick to respond, and immediately was asking to set up lunch. Later in winter break, I went to Detroit to meet him for lunch. It was his first time doing the mentorship program so neither of us knew what was expected and we made it what we wanted. We met again over spring break to go over picking classes and he gave me a sneak peek at what OCIs would be like. I have emailed him questions here and there throughout the year.
KMB: Did you feel like your conversations with him better prepared you for OCI?
GP: Yes. They really increased my comfort at the firm during the callback.
Coming from my perspective, my mentor was my top contact and central networking cornerstone.
I do want to mention that I was really thinking of my mentor as a mentor; not a connection that could lead to a job. Me not utilizing him as a resource would have set me back so far. So I was really proactive in contacting him all year.
As far as networking goes, it is worth mentioning that I had other callbacks in Detroit and most were firms where I had reached out to someone and talked to someone there.
Honigman was my top firm so it all worked out for the best.
KMB: What advice do you have for law students about the mentorship program? In particular, for students who are nervous about networking and approaching their mentor. What would you say to them?
GP: The mentors in the program are people who signed up for the program and love mentoring. My mentor might even love mentoring more than I loved having a mentor.
Definitely do the program. Don’t be timid about it. Mentors have signed up for the program because they like mentoring students. A thing for me was I didn’t want to bother my mentor or come off as being annoying and always reaching out but that wasn’t the case at all. He loved hearing from me anytime. Once you reach out, you quickly break down that barrier and understand that the person won’t find you obnoxious but will welcome your questions and need for advice. They will provide as much information as they can.
We hope that many of you participate in this year’s mentorship program. I encourage you to follow Garrett’s lead and view the program as pairing you with a mentor who can give you advice, educate you on their market and some practice areas, and help get you comfortable with networking. While it’s perfectly common for students like Garrett to be more comfortable with the OCI process as a result of their conversations with their mentor, the point of the program is not to get a job from your mentor or your mentor’s firm. If you go in with Garrett’s mindset of building a relationship with your mentor and getting their advice, you will set yourself up for success!
If you’re interested in signing up for the mentorship program for this year, it is open until November 25th. You can read more about it and fill out the mentorship survey to get in the program here.