By this point you've heard lots of advice on the importance of choosing a mentor to guide you through your legal career.
But almost no one talks about how critically important it is to have a dedicated mentor who can guide you through the process of taking the bar. While general advice is abundant and sometimes helpful, having a go-to person who can provide you with tailored advice to help you through the winter is a must-have for any bar taker.
What are the best qualities to look for in a bar mentor?
- First, it goes without saying that your bar mentor should be someone who has successfully (and recently) taken and passed the exam. While other kinds of mentors (parents and friends included) may have good intentions, only a previous bar taker will understand the specific kind of schedule and demands the bar imposes.
- Second, find a mentor who can make time for you up to 30 minutes a week and who will allow you to be selfish during this time. In other words, find a reliable volunteer who understands that you need this time to be about YOU and the challenges YOU are facing, and not about THEM. The right mentor will understand that your time is limited and valuable.
- Third, your mentor should be a GREAT listener -- someone who understands that his or her primary function is to support you and to let you talk about what's on your mind. Think carefully before enlisting the help of someone who may want to talk at you instead.
So how can you lock down a bar mentor?
Reach out to someone in your network and be direct in asking for help. A good place to start is with recent alums—their bar habits and routines will still be fresh in their mind.
Give them an overview of the kind of help you’re looking for and schedule a weekly or bi-weekly time to connect. Don't be shy in asking; the worst that could happen is someone will say no, but more often than not people are flattered and honored to help.
Still on the fence about taking the time to find a mentor?
Here are a few important reasons why you should find, and follow through with, the right person:
- Scheduled times with a mentor allow you to decompress, relieve stress, and give you an outlet to vent, complain, and seek advice from a trusted resource who can sympathize.
- A consistent voice on the other end of the phone can keep you accountable and share in small victories—it’s important to have these over the course of a long summer of studying.
- Regularly speaking with someone who is NOT currently studying for the bar will give you a good perspective and prevent you from being sucked into the ever-present and ominous stress vortex created by your fellow test-takers. Sometimes the advice of friends who are studying for the bar is helpful, BUT these "advice sharing" sessions usually lead to someone bending your ear for an hour about THEIR study strategy and how stressed THEY are. You don't need this kind of distraction, so try to avoid it.
- You'll want periodic pep talks from someone you can call in a pinch. As every bar taker will tell you, there is at least one time during the summer where you’ll need someone to talk you off the ledge. Line that someone up now.