Megan West Sherron, Campbell Law School
When we started the Connections program six years ago, the goals were to expose students and new attorneys to real-world experiences and teach lessons and skills beyond the classroom. Normally this is fairly straightforward -- taking a protégé to a hearing, a networking social, or a firm meeting. Ending the program this spring with a global pandemic, however, may be the strangest experience of all.
We typically host a group event for all mentors and protégés to attend, but like most things in March, this was cancelled. Mentors and protégés improvised to get in activities and from that, we have gleaned lessons that no matter the scenario are always important.
1. We constantly have to adapt and evolve -- This particular challenge hit us all and required everyone to adjust. In an effort to stay healthy, most everyone is working from home, school has gone completely online, and people are juggling multiples roles as employees, teachers, and caretakers. This requires flexibility, which is a lesson that applies with or without a shutdown. Change is constant. How we handle it is really the test. As one protégé stated, “the last month and the weeks ahead are not how I imagined ending my final days of learning at Campbell Law. But as we learned on the first day of law school, this occupation is a marathon, not a sprint, so we must keep pushing forward.”
2. Preparation is golden -- With the Connections Program, mentors and protégés are asked to complete five activities during the course of their time together. I always advise protégés to be mindful and use this time wisely, being mindful of the fact that roadblocks occur and you never know what might take place. Clearly no one was expecting a nationwide shutdown, but many took this advice, found mentoring success early in the program, and were able to finish the mentorship cycle strong. It is always important to prepare and take advantage of the time you have. In their last activity together, one protégé said that she took away the fact that her mentor was doing a lot of preparation for when she went back to court so “she would not waste time to prepare for the next big things.”
3. Mentorship is always a good idea -- The legal profession is one that is best practiced in community. While we are currently physically isolated, we need community and a mentor is someone that, no matter the season, can provide that connection that keeps us grounded and pushing forward. One protégé said it best: “[A] pandemic will easily distract you from your goal…a pandemic will cause fear to cloud your thoughts and it will disrupt your game plan. Despite the uncertainty, [my mentor] has mentored me toward success. Thanks to him and this mentorship program, I will keep pushing forward.”