One of the challenges to being a great mentor is thinking of experiences to show your protégé. A frequent comment I get from mentors is that they are happy to participate and enjoy being a mentor but wonder if they have anything interesting to show a student. My next tip is that for a new lawyer or student, everything can be interesting. Show students all the different things that you do in your practice even if they seem “ordinary” to you. That seems obvious, but we often forget about huge chunks of our legal practice because they seem elementary or even boring to us. That can lead to the mistaken assumption that a student would not want to see that part of our practice. However, if you put yourself in a student’s shoes none of the routine or ordinary for us as practicing lawyers is routine or ordinary for them.
Answering discovery may seem like a run of the mill task to a season litigator, but for a student it can be very interesting to see an actual set of interrogatories or the answers to those interrogatories when all they have seen before is the rules of civil procedure. Similarly, a transactional attorney might see a number of different contracts as ordinary or boiler plate. For a student interested in transactional work, though, it can be a great experience to review one of those “ordinary” contracts and then sit down with the mentor to discuss why those contracts are drafted the way that they are.
Those same concepts can apply to the day-to-day workings of a law firm. It can be very helpful for a student to sit in on a practice group meeting or understand how a firm performs its conflict checks. Again, those types of tasks quickly become ordinary for a practicing lawyer but are essential concepts for new lawyers to understand.
So, as we kick off the year in mentor externship and you are wondering what to do with your student, I urge you not to forget the “ordinary.” Those experiences can be some of the best that a student can have.