My name is Lee Kolvik and I am a law student at Lincoln University. I applied to join the Mentor Scheme because I felt that having one to one contact with somebody who has extensive experience in the profession I wish to be part of would be invaluable. As I also work full time, I do not get the opportunity to apply for summer work experience and so having a mentor would afford me the same chances as other student to get an insight in to, and feel for, the legal profession.
Upon meeting my mentor, Judy Brennan, we had an in-depth conversation about what I hoped to achieve from the scheme and about my reasons for studying law. This was really important as it gave Judy an idea of the best way to tailor the mentor days for me, and it gave me a clear indication of what was expected of me in return. It is important that students understand that this is a two-way relationship and it is not about sitting back and having things given to you. Students are being given valuable time and having trust placed in them by the mentors and this responsibility should not be taken lightly.
The things I have experienced so far on my ‘mentor days’ have really furthered my progression at university. On my first day Judy allowed me, with the clients permission, to sit in on an interview. Mr and Mrs Bloggs were now not just names from a seminar problem question, but they were real people sitting in front of me firing questions at Judy. This was real life, something that no lecture or seminar can properly prepare you for. We take it for granted that the advice we give to our fictitious clients in seminar questions is gratefully accepted by Mr and Mrs Bloggs but in reality this is not always the case. Watching the way Judy handled these clients, the professionalism and honesty she displayed was an extremely valuable lesson and something that university cannot teach.
I have been able to sit and read through current case material and have been involved in discussions about how cases are progressing and have been made to feel like I am part of the team. I have also been fortunate enough to be invited by Judy to attend cases at both the Magistrates and Crown courts and it was here that my lecture and seminar material really came to life. Observing how all the parties in the cases interact with each other and watching the whole process unfold was a fantastic experience and greatly furthered my understanding of my university subject material. I returned to classes with renewed vigour after my ‘mentor days’.
There is so much more I could write about the benefits of the university mentor scheme and in my experience there have been no negatives. It has been, and continues to be, such a valuable experience offered by the university in partnership with local law firms and one I would wholeheartedly recommend all students to take advantage of.
The only other bit of advice I would urge students to consider is this; whilst out at your law firms, whilst sitting in interviews with clients or sitting in court you are representing both the university and your mentor and law firm. This is an extremely privileged position for somebody to be in at such an early stage in their legal ‘careers’. In return for this trust, show willing, be interested and show that the knowledge that your mentor is giving to you is going towards turning you into the type of lawyer your mentor and the legal profession will be proud of.