Last fall, I attended the amazing networking opportunity known as the Women in Criminal Law Dinner, part of the Criminal Lawyer’s Association Fall Conference, when a former classmate asked me for advice on finding a mentor. This is some of the advice I offered.
First, while in law school, take the time to talk to your professors outside of class. Don’t be afraid to show them your personality and that you’re not simply a law student-robot obsessed with beating the curve. I especially recommend doing this with the amazing army of practitioner-professors who take time out of their 16-hour workdays, and more time away from their families, to come to school and impart their knowledge. These are the people who will soon be your colleagues and their assistance once you graduate and begin your career can be invaluable.
Alongside this piece of advice is the following – be nice. Whether or not people like you plays a large role in whether or not they will want to take the time to guide you. My articling principal, Susan Chapman (as she then was) also taught me that you can accomplish far more for your client simply by being nice than by being needlessly difficult, and still remain a zealous advocate.
Second, network, network, network. I can already hear you groaning but networking is crucial. I will also let you in on a secret; networking is simply being social. At all conferences I have attended, I have made the rounds and introduced myself to, well, everybody. My hope is that somewhere down the line when they see or hear my name it rekindles a vague warm memory in association. Thus far, it appears to be working. At the Women’s Dinner I found myself seated next to a senior member of the bar, who indicated that she had heard my name but did not know how or from where. We had a fantastic conversation over dinner and I left having a received a promise that she would mail me the butter chicken sauce she buys in the summer from a farmer’s market in Haliburton.