Mark Lumley on why becoming an SCL Mentor would be good for the Society, good for society and good for you.
I was once told by a venerable colleague to put my punchline at the beginning, justify it in the middle and then repeat it in the conclusion, following that advice:
Become an SCL Mentor, it will improve your professional life and help you to connect with the wider SCL community. Your unique experience and a few hours of your time could make all the difference to the next generation of lawyers. You don’t need to have 20 years’ experience, in fact being closer to the experience of being a student may well provide useful insight.
I first became a mentor by accident. It was a happy accident.
I attended a Business Link (now defunct) law clinic as an advisor as a favour to a friend. Business Link wanted to run more of these clinics but couldn’t find lawyers to support it consistently. I spoke to our trainees, put together some brief training for them and then oversaw their advice. As a by-product of this process, the trainees provided feedback on what they enjoyed and what piqued their interest from the wide variety of issues which popped up at the clinics. We discussed this, and it helped in trainee skills assessment and career choices.
Without realising it, I had started on a fairly clumsy, homespun path to becoming a mentor.
Since then I have participated in several mentoring schemes for aspiring lawyers and tech business owners, for everyone from undergraduates to those seeking mid-career change, for organisations involved in supporting start-ups like Amazon Web Services to LPC course attendees. It has always been interesting and challenging.
What I really like about it is that it is probably some of the most concentrated effective use of time. A small amount of effort can make a real difference to someone who might not have a relation in a law firm or grades which allow them to glide into the next phase of legal life.
Lawyers are often by nature, pragmatic, sociable, fair-minded and generous with their time. I appreciate that flies somewhat in the face of the numerous jokes at our expense of the “what do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?” variety, but nevertheless, with the odd exception, helping others is in our DNA.
We can all recall the lawyers along the way who provided a few memorable wise words or provided an example to follow. The lawyers who went out of their way to spend a bit of time to help our thinking when we didn’t know what route to take, those who took the time to explain their reasoning and method, not just the task they wanted undertaking.
Reaching a little further back in time, many of us can remember the level of worry around finding a training contract or a first step into the world of legal work. Many of us benefited from assistance with getting started in tidying up a CV, or tips on what skills or experience to try and brush up, in applying for a training contract or a first step into a law firm or a legal work environment.
SCL’s tagline is ‘Tech Law for Everyone’. For many of the current student population without a relative in a law firm or perfect grades (and even for those who do), an experienced helping hand from a mentor can make all the difference, not just to get them a start they might not otherwise have, but to make better decisions about what a future career might look like.
SCL has made a great start to widening participation and helping the next generation of tech lawyers, with the launch of the SCL ambassador scheme earlier in the year. SCL are committed to providing structured and helpful support to SCL mentors, but now we need the wider SCL community to get involved. Whether you have been a mentor before or not, we would love to hear from you.
Be an active part of the SCL community, become an SCL Mentor, it will improve your life and probably the opportunities and decisions of others. Contact SCL at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about the SCL mentoring scheme and to apply to become a mentor, it may be the best few minutes you spend at work this week.
Mark Lumley is a Partner at Shulmans LLP and an SCL Trustee.
All SCL University Ambassadors are offered the opportunity to be mentored and SCL is also seeking to recruit mentors for the forthcoming Student Tech Law Challenge. But, while the need for mentors for those purposes is especially pressing, mentors are sought beyond these categories.