What Makes a Mentor?

mentorToday, we welcome back 2L contributor, Gabriella Martin, to talk about the value of having and being a mentor.

What is the point of mentor? Why is it a term that seems to be mentioned by every attorney you’ll meet, regardless of their field? Before coming to law school, I thought about this a lot. I have a pride streak a mile long and to me asking for a mentor or seeking help is a sign of weakness. Or so I thought.

Over the past year and half I have begun to collect mentors like some people collect stamps. Each mentor has their value, be it through the advice they offer, the ears they lend, or the support they give freely.

Although I’ve begun to be mentor myself (you’ll be amazed at the amount of advice you can pass on to someone who’s only a year below you), in order to know what makes mentoring so important, I sat down with two incredible women who I am honored to call my mentors. Maggie Castinado is a public defender in New Haven, CT and the immediate past president of the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association. Paty Jimenez is junior associate at a large firm here in Connecticut, Reid & Riege.

What Made You Decide To Be A Mentor?

For both women, mentoring was something that wasn’t so much of a choice as it was happenstance. Maggie said that she always, “had a commitment to promoting higher education among minorities,” so when she began presenting at panels or speaking before students, she would hand out her business card, encouraging students to pursue higher education and reach out to her if they needed support through the application process. For Paty, having experienced the host of new challenges that law school brings and, like many, having to learn to quickly adapt, felt that it only made sense to pass the skills she had learned on to those who came after her.

What Does Mentoring Teach You About Yourself?

Paty summed up the effect of mentoring on the mentor themselves. She said, “I had to learn to be a better listener because my mentees didn’t always have the same concerns or struggles that I did.” On a professional level, Paty said that being a mentor has helped her build deeper connections with people and has helped improve her communication skills, both of which are great attributes to have as a young associate.

As far as whether mentoring has changed the way they practice law, Maggie had this to say:

“As a public defender, I come in contact with people from broken homes, indigence, mental and substance use, etc., and I try to always encourage them to pursue their education, whether it be completing their GEDs, taking a job training course, or attending college. Every single person has the ability to pursue their dreams and should be given the support and encouragement to do so.”

Although Paty has only been in practice for a few years, she did say that one of the most obvious effects of mentoring on her practice of law has been to grow her professional network. When asked whether mentoring makes them each a better lawyer, I learned that part of being a great attorney is setting an example for others (a key feature of mentoring). Paty said that being a mentor has provided her with new experiences and challenges, which in turn have helped her learn how to navigate and overcome those obstacles; she is eager to pass along that knowledge onto the next generation of attorneys.

Why Do We Need Mentors?

This is perhaps the most important question of all. I asked both women to summarize in one sentence what they believed to be the importance of mentoring in general. Maggie said, “To promote personal and professional development, community service, and to make a difference.” Part of that promotion includes those who are mentored to return the favor by becoming a mentor themselves. Maggie says that she instills in her mentees the importance of giving back and being there for those who follow in your footsteps.

In her one sentence summation, Paty said that by mentoring, “you are helping to build a better and more stable society.” For her, this importance of mentoring is reflected in the goals she has her mentees set and the plans for achieving those goals she works with them to create. She also said mentoring and being mentored begets positivity in both attitude and environment, something that is important in a field in which the world can seem to collapse on a daily basis.


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About Gabriella Martin

Gabriella Martin is a law student at Quinnipiac University School of Law in the Intellectual Property concentration. Gabriella graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in English Literature which furthered a passion for creative writing and analysis. Gabriella is involved in several ABA committees and numerous student organizations--including a 1L mentoring program. When she is not writing for Law School Toolbox or The Girl's Guide to Law School, Gabriella can be found catching up on TV shows, discovering new music, and going on adventures, both big and small.

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