The New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) Young Lawyers Division (YLD) is looking for volunteers to be mentors in a new program aimed at helping law students as they navigate their way through school.
“The law is one of those professions where a lot of knowledge is passed down from person to person. Finding and being a mentor makes you a link in the chain. And it doesn’t matter where you are in your career because there are always people with more experience, and people you can reach back and help pull forward,” said Emily Kelchen, chair of the YLD and NJSBA trustee.
Since members of the division are age 36 or younger and have been practicing for 10 years or less, the hope is the students will find them relatable, said Diana-Marie Laventure, a member of the YLD Executive Committee and Mentoring Program Committee, and an attorney at Kaufman Borgeest and Ryan in Parsippany.
“These are people who took the bar not that long ago and, depending on how long they’ve been in practice, may have recently graduated law school. They are probably less intimidating, versus someone who’s been practicing for 20 years or been a judge,” she said.
Mentor attorneys can help provide guidance on course selection, career advice, interviewing tips, bar exam preparation and other assistance, Laventure said.
NJSBA President Kimberly A. Yonta said the YLD mentoring program will be instrumental in helping to develop those in line to be lawyers.
“With changes happening all the time in the way we practice law, now, more than ever, it is important to have someone you can call on to speak freely about cases and practice issues. I find that I still call my mentors to get ideas about my case work, and now I am a mentor and enjoy extending that helpful hand to other lawyers,” she said.
Laventure, who pitched the idea for the program, said she would have liked to have been involved in a similar program when she was in law school, particularly when it came to advice about the bar exam. Instead, she reached out on her own to people for support.
“It’s super stressful studying for the bar,” said Laventure, but getting advice from people who have gone through it can be invaluable.
Having a mentor can be particularly helpful at a time when many who are working and learning remotely are feeling isolated and stressed, she added.
Mateo Diaz, an at-large non-voting member of the YLD Executive Committee and a second-year student at Seton Hall University Law School, said he was excited about the new program.
Students will be getting support and advice “from someone who’s been there,” he said.
Diaz said he’s had great experiences with mentors, who have given him advice on everything from what tie to wear to an interview to choosing from multiple summer job offers, and even influencing his decision to go to school.
Mentors will be paired with a student with similar interests and periodically be sent materials to facilitate discussion. Attorneys who are interested in only coaching a student through bar preparation, should indicate so on their application. Forms are available for mentors and mentees at njsba.com. For more information, contact Diana-Marie Laventure at [email protected]