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Words of Wisdom: The Value of Mentoring New Lawyers

Aspiring attorneys face a variety of challenges, which can derail their dreams of entering the legal field. A dramatic drop in law school applicants has forced more law schools to close. There is increased competition for fewer full-time job openings and the growing automation of legal services is outsourcing a significant amount of legal work. These hurdles make it all the more critical for young lawyers to get practice-based, hands-on experience before entering the workforce.

For fresh law school graduates, one of the best ways to get a leg up on the competition is to find strong mentoring programs that offer insight and opportunities to engage with the day-to-day activities of practicing law. While law school lays the foundation in preparing the next generation of lawyers, it’s the legal community at large that must share in this obligation to prepare and mentor. It is the responsibility of seasoned attorneys to mentor law students to better prepare them for real-world scenarios so they can handle stressful situations with confidence.

Law school is where students learn critical thinking skills, legal theories and how to become problem solvers. But it’s the typical job responsibilities such as meeting court deadlines, formatting pleadings, interviewing clients, drafting contracts, and negotiating or examining documents which are tasks that can only be learned while working alongside a professional.

It’s difficult to appreciate the pressure of arguing a case in court unless you get a chance to witness a trial in progress. Watching a real case unfold in the courtroom offers a better understanding of the legal system, by providing students with a practical application of the law rather than just studying theory.

One option is to join a mock trial team that offers trial competitions such as the National Civil Trial Competition (NCTC). Student litigators get the chance to argue complex cases with opening statements, conduct direct and cross-examination of experts and witnesses, and make closing arguments in front of an audience. These are meaningful opportunities to help shape the future career of the next great litigator. Our firm has proudly co-sponsored the NCTC with Loyola Law School, Los Angeles for the past 16 years. Our attorneys also serve as members of the judge’s panel for the event, which recognizes some of the most promising young legal talents in the nation. Partnering with your alma mater is a great way to get involved with student events.

Additionally, there are myriad ways to provide professional guidance either by offering externships or internships that promote excellence in the industry. The Los Angeles Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) offers fellowships to the five major law schools in Los Angeles: Southwestern, UCLA, USC, Loyola, and Pepperdine.

Each Fellow will spend the first month in a civil defense firm, the second in a civil plaintiff’s law firm, and the last month shadowing a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge both in the courtroom and in chambers. Our firm participates in this program by hosting a Fellow who shadows our attorneys for a month. The mentoring benefits are a two-way street. While a mentee learns about professionalism and how to be successful in the office and in the courtroom, the mentors can gain new perspectives on approaching a challenge that opens the mind to new ways of thinking, working or strategizing a case.

The legal industry continues to evolve as technology becomes more pervasive and sophisticated. While this may provide tech-savvy young lawyers an advantage over their predecessors, they still need guidance on how to deliver legal services in an ethical, respectful and responsive way. As advocates of the justice system, we must continue to pass along our wisdom and expertise to foster a new crop of legal leaders.

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