By Jennie Edwards, Assistant State Attorney, 4th Judicial Circuit
As a law student, many people around you talk about how important mentorship is, but no one tells you how to find a mentor. The access to a person to help guide your career is brilliant until you cannot find “your person.”
The Florida Bar and affiliates created opportunities in many cities and some rural areas to help young lawyers create meaningful relationships with more experienced attorneys and judges. Many law students are not aware of these groups. Many law schools are not effective at disseminating these opportunities to students who are not asking. I am lucky to have family members who are attorneys and helped guide me toward resources to create relationships.
The first place was the Inn of Court. Most Inns have discounted or free membership for law students for one year. In my second year of law school, I joined the Bennett Inn of Court in Gainesville. Each month, we met and sat at a table surrounded by attorneys and judges. Each month one of the tables did a continuing legal education presentation. There was dinner and a happy hour. This program opens you to possible relationships with the legal community. It also provides a place for you to meet judges and attorneys who work in a variety of practice fields.
I decided I wanted to move back to Jacksonville after law school, so I sought an Inn there. The Bedell Inn of Court helped me create relationships in the community that I wanted to work in long term. Lawyers in that Inn introduced me to the Jacksonville Bar Association and the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association. Again, these organizations are continuously providing young lawyers and law students opportunities in all different fields of practice. Many such organizations are either free or discounted for law students.
Each Inn or Association I joined opened horizons to new relationships within the legal community. I now have multiple mentorship relationships. Relationships were found in the office I work in, in the Inn of Court, and in the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association.
The Florida Bar also recognized the importance of mentoring and provided mentorship resources and programs through the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) and the Center for Professionalism. These programs can help connect those who are interested in being mentored and those interested in serving as a mentor. Today, there is no reason for you to struggle to find a meaningful mentoring relationship with “your person.”
With these opportunities, law students and young lawyers should not feel tied to one place to find a mentoring match. There are many resources available in Florida to assist in creating relationships. It just takes leg work on the mentee’s part to find them.
The point is, expand your horizons. Join a community legal group, get involved with the YLD or Florida Bar committee work, go to the local Bar Association’s happy hours or other fun events, or cold call an attorney in a firm that you are interested in or in a field you are interested in. In a mentoring relationship, you will only get out of it what you put in, so put a little effort into finding the “your person.”
Jennie Edwards is an Assistant State Attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit. She was admitted to practice law in Florida in 2020 and she serves on the Florida Bar’s Student Education and Admission to the Bar Committee.