Call it one big informal network—NYU Law Women claims as members every female-identifying student, and many alumnae to boot.
I first interacted with Law Women when I visited NYU for Admitted Student Days and went to a reception. I’m still friends today with people I first met there. As a 1L, I attended many Law Women events and then helped put one together as part of the Summit Committee. This year, as a 2L, I joined the board as Professional Development Co-Chair.
Professional Development has two main responsibilities. The first is to organize events, including the post-Strike-A-Match interview preparation panel and a series of “A Day in the Life” panels showcasing different types of work female attorneys get involved in. The second is to run the professional mentorship program, first launched in 2013.
The professional mentorship program builds on the theme of informal networking running throughout many of Law Women’s events and aims to solidify some of those networking connections into formal mentoring relationships. Mentors and mentees fill out extensive surveys covering career background and interests, and pairs are matched based on a holistic set of factors.
As part of last year’s pilot program, Tina Lo ’16 was matched with a mentor she’d seen speak at a Law Women event.
“She talked me through which summer internship to take, telling me how the position would fit into my larger goals and sharing a bit about her experience in Big Law and what skills I could obtain over the summer to benefit me for interview season,” Lo said. “I was extremely grateful for her advice, particularly because I didn’t have any attorneys in my family.”
This experience gave Lo a clearer understanding of what students are looking for when they apply for mentors, which she applies in her role as a Professional Development Co-Chair.
“Law can be an opaque field, and women who are still underrepresented in this area can really benefit from an older, wiser person’s insight,” she said. “Ultimately, Law Women’s mentorship program aims to bring together NYU Law’s female students and practicing attorneys who are interested in guiding young women through a historically male-dominated profession.”
Many students meet their mentors for the first time at one of two annual receptions. Hillary Smith ’17 called last semester’s event, at Anfora, “one of the most fun and most useful 1L events I went to.”
“I’m not the strongest networker and often don’t feel comfortable enough to get much out of happy hour events, particularly if I have assignments hanging over my head,” she continued. “But I was really impressed with how friendly, open, and genuinely interested all of the mentors were in learning about all of the 1Ls. One thing that struck me was how interconnected many of the women I met that night were, and how important those relationships are not only to getting a job, but to being happy with the one you have.”
Smith also looks forward to continuing the relationship.
“I have some specific questions about how to get the most out of a 1L summer internship that I look forward to discussing with my mentor once I know where I’ll be,” she said.
Another 1L student recently met with her mentor for the first time and found support when she particularly needed it.
“My concerns regarding career development have become secondary to the doubts that the first semester of law school created about my decision to pursue this path at all,” the student said, “but my mentor was very candid in sharing her similar experiences in trying to handle the misery of 1L while simultaneously dealing with family and personal issues. She has offered repeatedly and sincerely to be available to help whenever and however I might need it, and I feel very lucky to have her as a resource and role model.”
The program is rewarding for mentors as well.
“[In law school] there’s this false belief that every choice of class, internship, job opportunity is somehow an irretractable commitment to the rest of a person’s life,” said Carrie Goldberg. “Sometimes perspective can best be found by bouncing ideas off somebody who is a few years further along in the process. Everybody has the option of using their law degree to tailor a dynamic career for themselves.”