A common theme at Taylor Vinters is that we get great satisfaction from developing our future lawyers, and that also extends to mentoring students. Commercial and Technology Associate Natasha Irvine opens this article talking about her extensive mentoring experience. This is followed by Nick Smallwood, a second year trainee, who gives his perspective and insight into his first mentoring experience.
I have been a mentor since I started my training contract at Taylor Vinters in 2013 and am still doing it now as a qualified lawyer. I first started mentoring while at university, and really enjoyed being able to help others by going into local schools in Norfolk and helping students consider their options for the future. When the opportunity arose to get involved with mentoring at Anglia Ruskin Law School a couple of years ago, I signed up and was paired with a really enthusiastic student. As I was just starting out in my training and she was feeling her way into the minefield of training contract applications, she appreciated hearing about my experiences and what I was doing as a trainee. I have had several other mentees at Anglia Ruskin, including a mature student. While I thought it would be challenging giving advice to an older student, who had already had a fascinating first career in the military, it was great that we could both share our experiences, and I think I learnt as much from her as she has (hopefully!) learnt from me. Another of my ARU mentees told me that she had chosen an elective in IP after being interested in the kind of work I get involved in, so it has been really rewarding working with the University.
Likewise, I have participated in the University of Law’s mentoring scheme this year and worked with a student at the Bloomsbury campus in London, where I also did my Legal Practice Course. My mentee is studying in the evening and at weekends and working full time as a paralegal: her dedication has been really inspirational.
For me, mentoring is a really gratifying experience and a privilege to take part in. As legal training is getting all the more competitive, any advice that lawyers can share with future members of the legal profession is surely only a good thing. It is great to be able to provide support to students, as I remember what it was like dealing with the stress of training contract applications and interviews. Plus, I have often learnt a thing or two myself from my mentees!
As I sat on the train down to Kings Cross to meet my University of Law mentee, I felt nervous. He was a year older than me, had a PHD in engineering and had already spent several years working in Canadian immigration law. What, I thought, could I possibly have to offer this guy? Still, I couldn’t very well back out at this stage, so I strode into the smart Bloomsbury campus trying to appear confident.
The doubts subsided as my mentee and I got chatting over cold samosas and a beer. Soroush was from Iran – a country I have always wanted to visit – and was enthusiastic about intellectual property (one of my pet subjects). He was glad that he had a trainee as a mentor, he said, because I had recently successfully navigated the training contract application process. He thought that this would put me in a good position to help him do the same. I think that’s true. I made dozens of training contract applications and had lots of interviews, making pretty much every available mistake along the way. The nadir was the 9am interview which I showed up for at 2pm in the afternoon (after mis-diarising the interview slot I had booked). With these memories fresh in the mind I was in a good position to sympathise with the struggles of trying to persuade someone that one has the right stuff.
I have been able to offer Soroush feedback on applications, moral support and connections to IP events that he might not otherwise have come across. I’m glad I signed up to the program. It’s been an enjoyable and rewarding experience so far and I’d recommend it to anyone.