CBA Record March/April 2022


Paying It Forward: The YLS Mentorship Program By Ted Kontopoulos

L ike many, I was the first family member to attend law school. During that time, I focused simply on enter- ing the legal profession but overlooked the importance of having an attorney-mentor. Although many people—from parents to professors—helped mentor me, none prac- ticed law. Without an attorney-mentor, I approached certain challenges during law school, such as preparing for on-campus interviews, with insu ffi cient guidance and context. After re fl ection and identifying a desire to help Chicagoland law students, particularly fi rst-generation law students, in 2019 I decided to serve both as a special project coordinator and as a mentor in the Chicago Bar Association’s YLS Law Student Career ImmersionMentoring Program (the YLS Mentorship Program). The Importance of Mentors Attorney-mentors are vital to the growth of young attorneys and law students.

Attorney-mentors help improve our legal skills, provide tailored career path guid- ance, disclose unwritten industry cultural norms, navigate di ff erent o ffi ce settings, and so much more. Although some lucky Chicagoland students enter law school with an attorney-mentor family member, most lack that crucial starting relationship. Th e YLS Mentorship Program o ff ers a solution. At its core, the program pairs 2L stu- dents with attorney-mentors and runs throughout the school year. Pairings are generally made on a fi rst come, fi rst served basis. Pairings are based primarily on the student’s practice areas of interest, their desired practice setting (e.g., government, solo practice, private fi rm, etc.), or some combination of these two preferences. To maximize pairing e ff ectiveness, students indicate an interest in one or more of the How the YLS Mentorship Program Works

following practice areas: bankruptcy; busi- ness law; commercial litigation; criminal law; estate planning; family law; intellec- tual property; labor and employment law; personal injury; real estate; or undecided. To serve as a mentor, an attorney must be a current CBA member admitted to the Illinois bar. To serve as a mentee, a law student must be a 2L and a current member of the CBA. To sign up, an eligible mentee or mentor need only fill out a Google Form sent by the CBA in an email around August each year. If the program is full, send a request to be added to the waitlist by emailing Lindsay Wunrow (lwunrow@ Slots in the program typically open up to those on the waitlist when a mentor or mentee unexpectedly drops out. Once signed up, mentors and law stu- dents meet once per month for about an hour. To ease time and planning pressures on attorney-mentors, the program o ff ers

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