Tuesday night marked the kick off of the 2017-2018 CMLAA Mentor Program, a long-standing program that matches first-year law students with alumni mentors for guidance on adjusting to law school, learning more about the legal market in Northeast Ohio, and meeting other alumni and attorneys. Mentors and students met for an initial reception in the Atrium at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, beginning a year-long program that should include at least four mentoring encounters.

Formal mentoring programs, such as this one, present a unique opportunity to build a relationship and make a connection. Don’t forget, though, that mentoring comes in many forms, and establishing informal mentoring relationships is important, too. Ideally, a law student should seek to develop several mentoring relationships, which may each serve different purposes. Some refer to this as building your personal board of directors. As Erin Binns has written for the ABA for law students: “You benefit from having a cadre of people who can support and guide you in different ways. A quick way to kill a mentor-mentee relationship is to misinterpret the role the mentor is willing or able to play. The attorney who buys into your competencies and wants to promote you to his colleagues isn’t the person with whom you should share your doubts about whether you want to practice. Similarly the partner who invests in giving you terrific assignments isn’t the individual who needs to witness your mini-meltdown about lacking balance between your personal and professional responsibilities.”

What’s more, learning to seek and build a mentoring relationship isn’t just useful for surviving law school. Instead, it is a key career development skill that will help you to advance in your career, whether you are a law student, a new attorney, or more advanced in your career path. You will need different types of mentors at different stages in your career, and learning how to build those relationships early in your career will help you later on. For more advice, read this ABA article.

Without a doubt, the Cleveland-Marshall alumni network is a key resource when it comes to mentoring relationships, and the Office of Career Planning can connect all students with friendly alumni for networking and mentoring. Whether you’re a first-year student seeking to navigate your new mentoring relationship after Tuesday’s reception, or an upper-level student seeking to expand your personal board of directors, the Office of Career Planning can help. Schedule an individual appointment to discuss in more detail.