Mentoring Success

By Silvia Dropulich

Although only a few months into the Melbourne Law School Mentor Program, mentors and students are already reporting impressive results with many mentors keen to be involved again and students thrilled with the personal guidance they are receiving.

The Program was developed by the Law School's Careers Office to support orientation for first-year JD students – Melbourne is one of only two law schools in Australia with a Careers Office based in the faculty.

The Mentor Program is designed to support the students' formal academic training by providing a link into the profession and exposure to the practical realities of working in the law.

For Jasper Hedges, the best advice Kerry Greenwood (LLB 1979) (Duty Solicitor, Victoria Legal Aid, Sunshine) has given him is that studying law is like studying a new language, 'you've to stick at it and eventually it will click".

"I'm still waiting for that click, but I've got plenty of stick, so theoretically I've got nothing to worry about," Jasper  said.

Both he and Kerry are pleasantly surprised at what they believe has turned out to be a perfect mentor/ mentee  match.

"I'm very pleased to have a mentor who has interests outside of the legal world, as I'm not the type of student who was 'born' to be a lawyer," Jasper said.

"I often dream of being an author, so to be matched with a successful author is fantastic."

Kerry has been mentoring Jasper since May and is hoping that she will prove useful.

"I'm honoured at being selected as a mentor and whoever found me and Jasper knew what they were doing," Kerry said. "He reminds me of me at the same age."

Kerry believes the best advice she can give Jasper – or anyone studying law – is to not take it too seriously – "it's law, not life."

For Christine McCarthy, (LLB1976, LLM (CW) 2000) (Senior Legal Counsel, Worksafe), a good mentor is someone who has relevant experience and who wants to use that experience to help someone else. She has been mentoring Bin Hao since May and they are currently working on organising a seasonal clerkship for him.

She describes her student Bin as a very conscientious young man keenly focused on passing his law degree and finding a job.

"While these are very valid concerns," said Christine, "I would also like to imbue in him a sense that while the law is intellectually rigorous, it can also be a lot of fun."

For Bin, having a mentor means having the opportunity to observe how a senior legal practitioner thinks and operates.

"Christine has such a busy schedule but she is able to handle all things properly and efficiently," Bin said.

"She is a very good listener, is interested in different views, and likes to share her own experiences."

From a practical point of view, Bin is delighted with the career planning support he is receiving from Christine.

"Christine is helping me to evaluate legal and alternative career options, hone my job seeking skills and providing me with information on sources of potential employment opportunities."

When he first discovered his mentor would be Clayton Utz Chief Executive Partner David Fagan (LLB 1979, LLM 1983), James Remington was a little overwhelmed. He was worried how he, as a student, would relate to someone of such standing.

"However, it soon became clear that David was very easy to engage with as a lawyer, a company director, and as a person," James said.

David has been mentoring James and Dale Hutchinson since the Mentor Program started in May.

"We have regular discussions and briefings on the practice of law, including seasonal clerkship programs, graduate programs, and our CPD program," David said.

"And we've met with a leader of our pro bono practice to discuss the breadth of work we do for the disadvantaged and in public interest cases."

David believes being a lawyer is a an exciting career and advises his students to immerse themselves in the study of law as they will find their University work of significant value in practice.

"Law is at the cutting edge of many issues being played out in society," David said.

"It is great to be part of a valued and important profession.

"I think the Mentor Program will be of benefit to the students and me – it's a great initiative of the Melbourne Law  School."

Meanwhile, for Dale, having a mentor has provided him with a great opportunity to meet someone who can give "you a realistic picture of what working in the legal profession is like."

"David has been very generous in giving us his time and attention," Dale said.

"He has also been very proactive in organising our meetings and corresponding with James and myself."

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 2, September 2009.