A mentorship is “like a plant you need to water” according to Adetokunbo “Toks” Arowojolu, a third year student who made a point of developing meaningful mentor relationships throughout her law school journey. But the benefits are worth the effort.
“I had to bring a lot to the table,” Arowojolu recalls of preparing for her first meeting in 2014 with Kevin Mattingly ’09, a mentor she’d been matched with through Maryland Carey Law’s Alumni Mentor Program for first year students. She was grateful, however, when in addition to giving general guidance, Mattingly unexpectedly offered to review a writing sample she mentioned she was working on for summer job interviews. “It was really helpful, and I definitely took his advice.”
Mattingly’s first impression of Arowojolu was as a student who was very focused on succeeding in law school. He relayed a recommendation he tries to give all his mentees, to treat law school like a job.
“Get to school early, go to class, study in the library during your open time, and then go home at the end of the day and, to the extent possible, disengage from school a bit,” says Mattingly. “It’s all too easy to let 1L year become overwhelming.”
Mattingly also asked Arowojolu what interested her most about law school. “If I recall, I don’t think she had a definitive answer, and I emphasized that was totally okay.” As he’s learned for himself over the years, most students won’t have everything figured out that first year, or sometimes even by the time they graduate. “There are so many great things you can do with a law degree, whether it’s a big law practice, government work, non-profit work, or something entirely different. It isn’t necessary to pigeonhole yourself early on—take a variety of classes, try out different things, talk to a wide array of people, and be open to something new coming along that might interest you.”
Run by the Career Development Office (CDO) in conjunction with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, the Mentor Program is focused on developing relationships. The year-long program starts in the fall of a J.D. student’s first year to expose them to an alumnus who has been in their shoes. Mentors are matched one-on-one based on the mentee’s specified preference, whether that be geographic region or practice area they hope to work in upon graduation.
“We look for alumni who have that bigger picture,” says Ann Burke Lloyd ‘90, Director of Alumni Counseling and Programs. “They’ve been out of law school a few years and can provide an overall perspective for the student—from struggling through that first year to accomplishing career goals and how it will all eventually fit together.” CDO hopes it leads to networking for students as they progress through school, but the relationships that last past that first year do so organically says Lloyd.
Arowojolu and Mattingly are one of those relationships.
Arowojolu reached back out to Mattingly towards the end of her first year to update him on her job search. When deciding where to work, he emphasized the importance of diversifying her resume while she had the chance. That summer, she took a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at Pacific Gas and Electric Company in California as a law clerk.
In her 2L year, things got busy for them both, but they’d email when one had a milestone in their lives or careers. “That’s really important on the student’s end, just checking in from time to time to keep that relationship going,” says Arowojolu, “you can’t take a back seat with this experience.”
Recognizing the impact of mentorship, Arowojolu has already taken a stab at being a mentor herself—through the Black Law Students Association at Maryland Carey Law she has two mentees whom she has helped with job searches and conducted mock interviews for. “I feel like I’m destined to be a mentor and to help bring others along.” Especially when thinking about mentors and sponsorship in the workplace, she feels “you need someone who’s going to speak for you, to give you a seat at the table.”
As Arowojolu prepares to graduate this spring and start a position at K&L Gates LLP in Washington D.C., she is taking her own advice and making plans to ask Mattingly about the next stage in her law career. “I want some words of wisdom as I’m going into being a first year associate. What’s life like, the do’s and the don’ts?”