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Law student mentoring: Connect with ABA lawyers with a new premium program

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Learn about the ABA's new mentoring opportunities for law students.

The ABA is launching a mentoring program for law students. But it’s probably not what you think. If traditional mentoring is more like an arranged marriage, ours is more like Tinder. Let me explain.

It's a match!

Did you know the ABA has network of 400,000+ legal professionals across the globe? No other bar association can say that. Now, law student, go out and network. You have lots of free time in law school, right?

It’ll be simple – just find the 1-in-400,000 connection to change the trajectory of your career. Our job as an association is done. You’re welcome.

“Uh, where do I start?”

Actually, we get it. Navigating this organization is tricky. Hundreds of entities, hundreds of thousands of members, and a national scope with international initiatives – sometimes our biggest strength makes us overwhelming to new members. And networking is time-consuming when you don’t know where to start.

So, we’re launching a way for students to connect with the ABA’s base of experienced lawyers.

“The ABA is starting a law student mentoring program, then?”

Well, not quite. Think of traditional mentoring programs. A few mentees, limited by the number of volunteer mentors who can be roped into it, are placed by a coordinator into a weeks- or months-long mentor/mentee relationship.

I suppose you know lots of lawyers with ample time to participate as mentors in these programs? And what if a student gets a bad mentor, what then? Or if the lawyer is paired with a bad mentee? Did I mention we have 80,000 law student members and 400,000 ABA members?

Truth is, that level of commitment in traditional mentoring disqualifies many prospective participants from the get-go. It takes a big effort to coordinate, too, and you’re putting all your eggs in one basket with a single match.

“Stop making excuses, and get to the point.”

Instead, we want to make more connections for a substantial portion of our student members.

To be clear, the ABA is launching a web platform designed to facilitate organic connections between law students and lawyers through micro-volunteering opportunities. It’s just hard to write like that with a straight face.

“How does it work?”

We connect students with lawyers through an online platform in two ways:

  • Have your resume reviewed.
  • Meet for coffee.

That’s it. With the first two, everything’s online. Premium Students can sign up for them now.

Mentorship - Resume Review Screenshot

Meeting for coffee, of course, is in-person. ABA Lawyers can log on to the mentoring site with their ABA credentials to make themselves available to meet with students in their area. Each of the three allows for filtering by criteria we think will make a better matches: Law school, work setting, practice interests or specialty, city, etc.

Remember? Traditional Mentoring:Arranged Marriage :: New ABA Premium Mentoring:Tinder.

“Still not convinced. Why would I do this as a student, or as a lawyer?”

For students, this Lifehacker article and its accompanying Business Insider video sums it up: “Stop Looking for a Mentor and Opt for One-Off Mentoring Sessions Instead.”…

For lawyers
, if you want to give back by helping students (who doesn’t?) but don’t have a lot time (who does?), it’s an insanely low commitment. Five minutes? Answer a question. Thirty? Review a resume. An hour or two? Meet a law student for coffee.

Especially for active members of state/local bar associations, ABA sections, or other professional groups, this is a chance to make a personal connection with students who otherwise might never come to your groups’ events. I hesitate to bill this as a recruitment tool, but if I’m a law student, a testimonial from an active leader who just reviewed my resume might hold more sway with me than even the finest website or mass email marketing copy.

For both students and lawyers, we hope this leads to meeting more people in your profession. Those could lead to mentor/mentee relationships. If there’s an interest in pursuing it after the meeting, go for it! If not, use us to make another connection. We’re not forcing it, either way.

And, remember, our mentoring platform is only available for Premium ABA Law Student Members. Also note, this is all new and in beta form. Don’t expect quick turnaround times on requests just yet, and please share your feedback when you hit issues and bugs.

Let us know what you think!

Austin Groothuis Austin Groothuis, JD, MBA is the Director of the American Bar Association Early Career Strategy Group, overseeing the Law Student Division and Young Lawyers Division. He is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law with more than 15 years of experience working in the nonprofit management, marketing, technology, and legal education space.