Mentoring Scheme inspires confidence and self-belief

Being a mentee as part of Kent Law School’s Professional Mentoring Scheme has been an experience that has surpassed the expectations of law student Chantal Cohen, inspiring her with greater confidence and belief in her own achievements.

Chantal, a Senior Status LLB student from Canada, was mentored for the past year by Barrister John Nee of Becket Chambers in Canterbury.

John is one of more than 100 mentors currently subscribed to the Scheme, many of whom are alumni. Mentors volunteer their time to help students develop their understanding of the legal world. They offer expert advice on CVs, assistance with applications and mock interviews in a bid to help guide their mentees through the application process for both work and study. They work with their mentees over the course of one academic year, from the beginning of the Autumn term until the end of the Spring term.

Chantal said: ‘Being a mentee often starts as a game of expectation versus reality. Engaging in a mentoring experience means, managing your expectations and engaging in any opportunities that become available to you. Of course, I, like many students, need actual hands on experience in order to compete in today’s job market. While you are told that this is not part of the mentorship agreement, you nonetheless go into the experience hoping that she/he can help you get further in your career.

‘While, those were my hopes, my experience with the mentoring scheme this year, surpassed my expectations and provided me with far more than I thought I needed. Too often in a competitive job market, new students are left feeling like they have very little to offer firms. This is where I think the schemes really shine through, and this is especially true of my mentor John Nee. What I received through this scheme was a lesson far greater than any job placement, which do not get me wrong, I am very thankful for having received, but the confidence I gained in myself is really the success of this experience.

‘My mentor made sure that he was always providing constructive criticism. This led to a dynamic, which reinforced and provided me with the confidence I needed to recognise that my skills obtained prior to law school, would enable me to stand out from the crowd of other applicants. We worked collectively to ensure that I presented myself in a light that would showcase my achievements and would ensure that an employer would see them as advantageous.’

Commenting on his experience as a mentor, John said: ‘A mentor’s experience is steered by the enthusiasm of his or her charge. It was a pleasure advising Chantal, who took advice well, acted on it, and showed such sustained keenness that I was quite happy to arrange for her to shadow some barristers.

‘Seeing someone grow in stature is a pleasure, and I will watch Chantal’s career with interest. She is very welcome to contact me as she wishes into the future, on the condition (as already agreed between us) that when she is a qualified lawyer, she does the same for the next generation.

‘Good luck Chantal, and well done Kent Law School – there is a world of difference between text book law and the realities of work. This scheme allows students to question mentors about the differences. When a student is as mustard keen as Chantal, opportunities really do appear, provided that student has the chance to meet a mentor wanting to encourage.’

Chantal said she cannot recommend the Mentoring Scheme enough: ‘The best advice I can give is do not worry if a job opportunity does not come out of it, that can come from anywhere. Take advantage of the real highlight and opportunity that comes out of being a mentee, which is as a learning experience.’

Aside from receiving a mini pupillage from Becket Chambers through John Nee, the scheme also enabled Chantal to connect with other legal professionals. An opportunity to network with James Clark of Grosvenor Law at the Mentoring Scheme’s annual networking event in London, led to a two-week work experience at his firm. Chantal credits her mentoring relationship with John for giving her the confidence to be able to maximise her chance meeting with James. She said: ‘I believe the mentoring experience is twofold, it’s partly about getting work experience but it’s also about personal growth.’

Previous participants in the Scheme, who say their mentoring partnership and/or the networking opportunities it affords led to offers of employment include:

  • Kent Law student James Mapley – last summer he was in the enviable position of being able to choose from one of three offers for a training contract
  • Kent Law School alumnus Patrik Jacobsson – last November he began work as a trainee with a leading firm of international solicitors.

In addition to legal professionals working in the UK, the Scheme includes mentors based in Canada, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Malaysia, UAE, and the UN in Switzerland. Each year, the Scheme also hosts a networking event in London where mentees have an opportunity to meet their mentors and to develop their networking skills.

The Law School’s Professional Mentoring Scheme is managed by the Law School’s Employability and Career Development Officer Jayne Instone. Full details about the Scheme are available to students on Moodle (see: DP1950 Employability).

Students beginning their studies at Kent Law School in September 2017 are encouraged to watch out for Jayne’s weekly emails and to follow her Employability Blog for news of further possible mentoring opportunities towards the end of this year.