Mentor program seeks law alumni

The GW Law School will roll out a new alumni mentoring initiative over the next year to foster a more personalized experience for students.

While an informal mentoring system already exists, a formal plan – expected to be implemented in the fall of 2012 – would match current students with alumni mentors based on their interests in specific areas of law or regions.

“What I would like to do is create a system so that students, as they come in the door the first year, are assigned a mentor who is out in the world,” law school dean Paul Berman said.

Berman added that mentors would commit to taking students to lunch three times in the first year, letting the students shadow their professional activities for a day and giving the students networking advice.

“My idea is that many of the pairs will hit it off in the first year, and will stay in touch perhaps for life,” Berman said.

Shiraun Jacob, a third-year law student, met with a mentor who shares his interests in patent litigation and electrical engineering.

“A mentoring program would allow students to better understand the fields of legal practice and help them narrow down the best practice area or areas for them,” Jacob said.

By maintaining the mentoring initiative as a fixed part of the three-year law program, the system is also geared toward recruiting top students to the law school – ranked No. 20 by U.S. News and World Report.

“If we can offer them this built-in networking experience from day one,” Berman said, “I think a lot of students will find that attractive.”

As part of the initiative, the law school is reaching out to alumni worldwide to better prepare third-year students to enter the professional realm.

“I want an extensive alumni network that I can call on no matter what practice area and no matter where in the world the students want to practice, so that the alumni may be able to offer a job, or at least offer advice,” Berman said.

Berman has begun to achieve this network informally by hosting alumni events, including a reunion that drew more than 600 alumni – the most to ever attend.

With the current state of the economy, Berman said using the alumni network to ease the process of entering the workforce “can’t help but have a positive impact on job prospects.”

The mentoring program is one piece of a broad reform process that Berman – in his first year as dean – looks to lay out over the course of the academic year.

“We obviously already have a tremendous and strong program here, but I think people are excited to think in innovative ways about improving the school, both in ways large and small,” Berman said. “Things are happening, and the place feels very energized.”

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