Alumni-Student Mentoring Program Takes Shape at Michigan Law
By Jenny Whalen
July 29, 2013
From college and dating, to employment and savings, there are countless choices made by our younger selves that would benefit greatly from the wisdom and advice of an older version.
As time travel is not in the line of Michigan Law, the Office of Career Planning and Office of Development & Alumni Relations is piloting the next best thing. Launched in fall 2012, the Law School's inaugural one-on-one mentoring program works to pair alumni and students who share not only a career path, but also similar backgrounds, interests, and hobbies.
"The matching is personal," said recruitment manager Kim LeClair. "Organizers of the program match the participants by hand based on criteria they identify. This includes information such as area of interest, participation in student groups, undergraduate institution, personal interests, hometown, desired employment sector, and preferred or current practice location."
Although the program is still in its infancy—26 students and alumni were matched during a reunion weekend in fall 2012 and 56 when the program traveled to Washington, D.C. in May—LeClair said the Office of Career Planning has had a positive response from current student and alumni participants.
For rising 2L Nate West, participation in the D.C. installment of the program offered an opportunity to explore one area of law while serving another.
A legal intern in the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division, Appellate Section, West is gaining first-hand experience in the public sector but relying on his mentor, who works in one of D.C.'s private firms, for insight into Big Law.
"Michigan is one of those schools where people are not only proud to attend but they are excited to meet alumni and that really helps in terms of networking down the line," West said. "The alumni seem to be very amenable to helping fellow alumni and current students, and there are so many alumni across the country doing every possible thing you can do with a JD."
From networking tips to reviewing his bid list for upcoming on-campus interviews, West said his mentor has already proved a valuable resource in just the past two months.
Mentor Cyrus Nezhad, '03, an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Energy, hopes to assist his own mentee similarly.
"I didn't participate in anything like this when I was in Law School and, in hindsight, it could have been helpful," said Nezhad of his motivation to serve as a mentor. "It was a way to help out Michigan Law students and to give back."
This willingness on the part of alumni to assist younger generations of the Michigan Law community is both overwhelming and intensely gratifying to organizers of the mentoring program, the future of which depends on student and alumni interest.
"It really is the Michigan Law difference," said LeClair. "Our alumni are so willing to work with current students. The key is to let students and alumni know these networking relationships exist and, through them, we can make the Michigan community that much stronger around the world."
Read more feature stories.