Helping you with the next step of your career – Professional Mentoring Scheme

Need help deciding which area of law to pursue, but don’t know where to start? Applications are now open for the Law School Professional Mentoring Scheme, offering LLB and MA law students going in to their second year, the chance to be matched with a legal professional in a wide variety of practice areas. The scheme aims to allow you to gain deeper insights into working in commercial law, and build on your network for the future. Professional mentor for the 2021-22 scheme, Sam Cripps has outlined what he likes about supporting students and what you can gain from joining the scheme. See our Professional Mentoring Scheme webpage for more details on how to apply.

male mentor
Sam Cripps, Projects Solicitor at Burges Salmon

What is your background in law and how did you get to where you are today?

I have had a reasonably linear (boring!) route to law. I completed my LLB in 2015, and applied for a training contract. In the summer of 2015, I attended two vacation schemes, in addition to applying directly for Burges Salmon (where I work now). I was fortunate enough to receive an offer from each of the three firms, but chose Burges Salmon due to the culture, size and mix of work.

“While I had a successful ending to my training contract journey, I also suffered through many rejections, no-replies, and anxious nights! Everyone’s journey is different, but in my experience, everyone always achieves the same end destination.”

You get better, and more selective as you go through the process, so don’t give up! I completed my training contract between 2017-19, and chose to qualify into Projects. The Burges Salmon Projects team routinely works on large scale asset/infrastructure projects and this appealed to me. I was fascinated about working at the cutting edge of renewable energy, or the roll-out of the latest medical technology, and Projects was the right fit.  

 Why did you decide to become a mentor on the Professional Mentoring Scheme?

Studying law at university, or considering converting at postgraduate level, is very different to the life as a lawyer. Therefore, as a student I remember not really understanding what my application should look like, or even what the job entails. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have legal contacts in their family/friends, and therefore the mentoring scheme allows lawyers to connect with students to help give them that insight. I became a mentor to play a small role in helping students on the next step of their career path. 

What was the highlight of your time being a mentor and why do you think students should apply for the scheme?

My mentee was incredibly organised and driven, so my role was very easy. But I enjoyed the progress we made from setting objectives for the year (in this case, it was to progress with TC applications), to seeing them in the canteen at work on their first vacation scheme. My mentee did all the hard work, but I was there to bounce questions off, and chat through any areas they were unsure of. 

“ If you are interested in a career in law, the scheme offers you access to lawyers from a variety of firms. It is easy to be overwhelmed with the variety of choice when you begin to apply, so being matched with someone who has been through the process helps.”

If you get partnered with me, there will also be free coffee… 

laptop and coffee cup

Application details

Applications are invited from LLB and MA students going in to their second year in 2022-23 academic year. See our Professional Mentoring Scheme webpage for more details on how to apply. The deadline for submissions is Friday 5 August at 5pm.

I feel more prepared pursuing a career in law, and you could too – Professional Mentoring Scheme

Need help deciding which area of law to pursue, but don’t know where to start? Applications are now open for the Law School Professional Mentoring Scheme, offering LLB and MA law students going in to their second year, the chance to be matched with a legal professional in a wide variety of practice areas. The scheme aims to allow you to gain deeper insights into working in commercial law, and build on your networks for the future. Law student and mentee from the 2021-22 scheme, Alexandra Zanenga outlines why she joined the scheme, how it influenced her career planning and the support it can provide. See our Professional Mentoring Scheme webpage for more details on how to apply.

law student and mentee
Alexandra Zanenga, law student and mentee

What inspired you to sign up to the Professional Mentoring Scheme?

I was at the point in my law degree where I was beginning to think more seriously about my future and explore what areas of law interested me. Although there is an abundance of information and resources available online to aid students with this, it is difficult to gain an accurate picture of what being a lawyer entails in practice and how to go about pursuing a career in the legal sector. I applied for the mentorship scheme to gain some insight into a department I was unfamiliar with at the time but wanted to learn more about (Projects), and to connect and speak with someone who has potentially gone through some of the same experiences/struggles as I have as a student but ultimately been successful in the legal sector.

How was your experience on the scheme and how do you feel your mentor supported you?

My experience on the scheme was great! I was lucky enough to have been paired with a mentor who works at a firm in Bristol, so I was able to meet them in person and see the office.

“My mentor was incredibly supportive, offering both general advice on how to go about pursuing a career in law, and tailored feedback on how to best improve my competencies and stand out when applying to law firms.”

Despite his busy schedule, he would always make time to meet with me and talk through any questions I had.

Overall, I am incredibly grateful to have had this experience, as I feel more prepared going into the legal sector and pursuing a career as a lawyer.

Which area of law are you hoping to pursue and how did this experience influence this decision?

As of now, I am hoping to either go into Projects (the area of law that my mentor works in), or Corporate Finance, but I am keeping a very open mind. Going into the mentorship scheme I was curious to know more about Projects, as I learned that lawyers in this department work on large renewable deals and the energy sector has always been of interest to me. After meeting with my mentor and getting glimpses into the type of work he does, deals he has completed, and what his day-to-day life looks like as a Projects solicitor, my interest in this area has only amplified and I hope to be able to explore it further in the future.

Why do you think students should apply for the scheme?

I believe that being able to speak to a professional who works in the area of law you are hoping to pursue is an invaluable experience which will give you insight into what you can realistically expect for your future.

“It is really helpful to hear about someone else’s experiences going into law and understand what you can do now to make yourself a better candidate in the future.”

Also, you have the opportunity to ask as many questions as you can, which comes in handy when the application period starts!

Application details

Applications are invited from LLB and MA students going in to their second year in 2022-23 academic year. See our Professional Mentoring Scheme webpage for more details on how to apply. The deadline for submissions is Friday 5 August at 5pm.

Why is having a mentor important for my career development?

Kicking off Mentoring Month 2021, this month we are shining a light on the Law School mentoring schemes, offering our current law students the opportunity to gain deeper insights into working in commercial law, applying their law degree to a less corporate role, or gaining networks in their home countries. We hear from previous Professional Mentoring Scheme participants, Hannah Bellingall (mentee) and Alex Farrell-Thomas (mentor) as they outline the best bits and learnings from their experience last academic year.

What can I gain from being mentored during my law degree?

“When I first applied for the Professional Mentoring Scheme, I was still unsure which career path I wanted to take. Although I had attended several networking events, I felt there was not a space I could have a genuinely honest conversation with those who work with commercial law.

The mentoring scheme was a way I could gain way more insight into commercial law in general and have a candid conversation on topics such as work/life balance and mental health with someone within the industry.

It was also amazing to talk to someone who had been through the application process themselves, and my mentor was able to offer great feedback and tips on how to write good applications and which strategies are best to use.”

Hannah Bellingall is a final year LLB Law student, having taken part in the Professional Mentoring Scheme in 2020-21 during her second year.

How will my mentor be able to support me?

“I took part in the Professional Mentoring Scheme last year, whilst working at Osborne Clarke. I really liked the idea of giving something back – and giving advice to someone in a similar position that I was in, not so long ago, as a student myself.

I could really relate to the kind of difficulties that my mentee was having and the advice that she was after.

Being able to speak as someone who is now working at a law firm, and understand how you develop the skills to get there – I found that the scheme was a great opportunity to share some of that knowledge and be there to answer questions that my mentee had. Hopefully the experience enabled us both to develop some new skills.

As a junior lawyer, now that I start to delegate work to other juniors in my team, I think it’s important to stop and consider, if I was in their position, what do they need from me to be able to complete the task that I have asked them to help with? The mentoring scheme helped me to develop those skills because it allowed me to reflect and put myself in someone else’s position.”

Alex Farrell-Thomas is an Employment Associate at Osborne Clarke and joined the Professional Mentoring Scheme during 2020-21.


We offer three distinct mentoring schemes to allow students to explore a variety of career paths. Here we’ve set out some tips to help you decide which scheme to choose:

“I want to explore corporate/commercial routes (i.e solicitor/barrister)” we recommend choosing the Professional Mentoring Schemefind more information here.

“I want to explore wider career paths outside of corporate/commercial routes (i.e. careers in human rights, policy…)” we recommend choosing the Law in Society Mentoring Schemefind more information here.

“I’m an international student and would like to build legal networks in my home country” we recommend the International Law Mentoring Schemefind more information here.


Eligibility

The Professional Mentoring Scheme is open to second year LLB and final year MA students. The Law in Society Mentoring Scheme is open to second and final year LLB and MA students. The International Law Mentoring Scheme is open to second year, final year LLB, MA and LLM Law students.

How to apply

Please check all eligibility requirements before applying. Please note that applications for the Professional Mentoring Scheme open on Monday 4 October and close at midnight on Friday 22 October.

Applications for the Law in Society and International Law Mentoring Schemes open on Wednesday 6 October and close on Sunday 31 October.

Find out more about our mentoring schemes here.

How can you make the most of your mentoring opportunities? Six top tips from law student, Oli Carey

Continuing our ‘Mentoring Month’ promotion this October, we caught up with one of our current law students and Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholar for 2019, Oli Carey. Oli outlines his six tips to ensure you get the most from your mentoring relationships.

Mentorship as an aspiring barrister or solicitor is an invaluable opportunity, but as a student it is understandably daunting at first.

The best thing you can do as a mentee and student is be as prepared as possible – after all, being a mentee is more than likely new to you. 

After being selected as 1 of 13 Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholars for 2019, I was lucky enough to be paired with a bench of different mentors. I’ve spent the last year learning from each of their personal experiences and strengths through their unique experience and advice. This was my first experience of professional mentorship so it’s safe to say I’ve come a long way since then. 

The following are 6 tips for students to keep in mind at all stages of mentoring. Quotes from one of my mentors, an enforcement and regulatory lawyer for the Bank of Englandare included in italics (these views are personal and do not reflect the views of the Bank).

1. Making first contact

There are many concerns that may run through your mind before contacting a mentor for the first time. What if you have nothing to say? What if they find you unimpressive? What if you don’t get along? These are all fair concerns – all of which can be avoided if planned for. 

Face-to-face meetings are always a great way to start things off, but (given the current circumstances) this is unlikely to be an option. Youre left with a phone call or an email. Lead with an email making it clear that you would like to schedule a phone call. Your goal is to get to know each other – this will be significantly easier over the phone. 

Start off with simple questions that will get the mentor talking about themselves – what their first job was, whether they always planned to work in this field, how they chose it, how they approached essays, exams etc.” 

Be prepared to talk about yourself. It is important that they understand you and your goals. Let them know what your thoughts are regarding your career and in what areas you think they might be able to help. 

2. Agree on expectations

Things are going to be made a lot easier, on both sides, if there is agreement on expectations. This can be as basic as how often and by what means you are going to communicate. A suggestion that worked well for me was to have a call every 2/3 weeks – often enough to be able to ask pressing questions but not so often as to be a nuisance. 

As far as your expectations for the relationship, don’t expect that you are going to click immediately. In fact, you might never really click with your mentor. You should be expecting something between professional and friendly. As long as you are gaining something positive then you are on the right track. 

“I still got a lot out of being mentored by a former Court of Appeal judge, even if I was terrified the whole time!” 

3. Respect their time

A professional mentor in any sector is likely to be extremely busy. The onus is going to be on you to fit mentorship around this. 

Always take the lead on scheduling calls and be as flexible as you can. Remember that saying “any time” is not helpful – give specific dates that are going to work for you and then times you can’t do on those dates, as this will help the quick matching of schedules. Be clear that you are available early in the morning and late at night (this might be the only time available for some people). 

Expect them to have a very active inbox – don’t be offended if one of your emails is missed. If you haven’t received a reply after a week, send another email to draw their attention to the first. Good advice here is to remain cheerful and acknowledge that they must be very busy. It is very unlikely that your mentor is intentionally ignoring you. If you are unsure whether to follow up with another email do speak to the mentoring scheme organisers.  

4. Ask insightful questions

Make the most of your mentor’s experience and ask questions that really matter to you. Asking great questions will require some self-reflection and preparation. What are some current issues that matter to you? Does your mentor have some experiences that you think you could learn from? How has your mentor built a skillset that you admire? The more time you put into preparing questions the more productive your conversations are going to be.  

Start off with practical questions like asking for feedback on your CV, job applications or essay topics… realise that mentors can be nervous too. They might not feel very confident about what they can offer the mentee, so focusing on something practical can help them unlock that. Imposter syndrome is a problem even for people who are very successful!” 

Another idea is to create the expectation that you will send a topic or question to your mentor some days in advance of a scheduled meeting. This both gives them time to prepare and gets you into the routine of preparing more thoroughly. 

5. Making the most of their time

Not only is your mentor likely to be busy, but they will also be more senior, knowledgeable, and experienced than you. Respect the fact that the time they take out of their day is a significant commitment. Show respect in being open to their feedback. Don’t be an energy drain for your mentor – take on feedback and show that you are implementing it where possible. 

Remember this is a two-way relationship and you should be looking to give something back to your mentor. Your mentor will appreciate your genuine interest in what they have to say. 

Dialogue can be a space for the mentor to reflect not just on their own journey, but to practise listening and really challenge themselves to learn about the experiences – positive or negative – the mentee is having.” 

6. Keep things on track

It can be easy to let things slip as a mentee. You might get really busy with uni or work and not make any time to speak with your mentor. You might not have prepared before your meetings or have been putting a lot of energy or effort in. 

The solution to any of these problems is going to be obvious but you may need some convincing when the time comes. The longer you wait to fix it the more difficult things are going to be. Be honest with yourself about where you went wrong and contact your mentor ASAP. 

In summary

Each of my mentors has given me different insights over the last year, but all of them have helped me build a strong foundation for a professional networkMy final tip would be to recognise the value that every supporter in your network bringsHaving the support of such accomplished, experienced and (most importantly) unique people has given me great confidence in my academics, future career and all other facets of life. 

Further information

Securing a mentor can help you to develop key skills that employers are looking for, such as communication and personal skills, increase your confidence and motivation and provide you with an opportunity to delve deeper into an area of law or non-law that you are considering pursuing.

Many of the mentoring schemes on offer through the Law School close for applications at the end of October 2020, so make sure you read about each scheme before applying. Find out more about our various mentoring schemes and how to apply here.

“Big law in a prestigious firm isn’t for everyone” – mentoring insights from law alumna, Sarah Brufal

As part of ‘Mentoring Month’ this October, we caught up with one of our current Professional Mentoring Scheme mentors, law alumna and Head of Legal EMEA at Siemens Digital Industries Software, Sarah Brufal. Sarah explains how she came to be a mentor on the scheme, and her tips and learnings for students considering joining a mentoring scheme.

A couple of years ago I did something I had been meaning to do for a long time … I sent an email to the Law Faculty at Bristol University and asked if they needed any support from an alumnus. I wondered if I could do anything useful and I was really interested to see how (if at all) things had changed since my day! I had so many great memories of being a student in Bristol in the early 90’s – wow that makes me sound incredibly old. It was a great introduction to Law and we had so many varied and talented Professors – all with such huge passion for the Law.

Amazingly I got an answer back straight away and was soon put in touch with Rosa and found myself with a new mentee shortly after that. I have had two mentees so far and, although Covid has limited the experience this year, I have taken a lot of positives and learnt a lot from the Scheme and my mentees:

  • My Most Significant Recollection: Remembering how little you really know about life in the Law when you are at University and what career options are open to you;
  • My Most Important Learning: That “big law” in a prestigious City law firm isn’t for everyone;
  • My Deepest Sympathy: Seeing how painstaking it is to complete all those job application forms with something interesting; and
  • My Greatest Enjoyment: Showing my first mentee what life In House in Industry is like when she came on work experience.

My top tip for anyone thinking of joining the scheme would be to reach out and speak up. Both my mentees have been very good at asking questions and in asking for support when needed. I think that is so important. Never think you are wasting anyone’s time or asking too much – as lawyers, who always have a view, they will tell you if they think you are!

More about Sarah

Sarah Brufal joined Siemens Digital Industries Software as Head of Legal EMEA in 2014. Since then she has worked as part of a fantastic team of legal professionals working to help bring customer success in the innovative worlds of Software and Digitalisation.

Having started her career in private practice at Ashursts and Shearman & Sterling, Sarah moved in-house and has held General Counsel roles at General Electric in London and Middle East.

Further information

Securing a mentor can help you to develop key skills that employers are looking for, such as communication and personal skills, increase your confidence and motivation and provide you with an opportunity to delve deeper into an area of law or non-law that you are considering pursuing.

Many of the mentoring schemes on offer through the Law School close for applications at the end of October 2020, so make sure you read about each scheme before applying. Find out more about our various mentoring schemes and how to apply here.

My Experience with the Law in Society Mentoring Scheme: Why I Did it and Why You Should Too

As part of ‘Mentoring Month’ this October, we caught up with recent law grad, Haneet Sagoo on why she chose to apply for the Law in Society mentoring scheme and how it helped shape her career aspirations. Find out how you can do more with law below.

It’s safe to say that signing up to the Law in Society Mentoring scheme was one of the best decisions I made in my final year. Here I’ll tell you how it worked and why it was such a beneficial experience.

Who Should Apply?

Anyone who is thinking about what they’d like to do after uni and wants to explore their options! The scheme is especially great for law students who are looking at careers outside the straightforward commercial law route. For example, I wanted to explore a career in international humanitarian aid and I was able to match with a mentor with years of experience in that sector.

Getting started

I applied for the scheme because I’d always had an interest in human rights focused work but I didn’t know what the steps were to get there. So, when I heard about the mentoring scheme where you could be matched with a professional in a sector you were interested in, I jumped at the chance!

The scheme is set up in a really interactive way from the off. After applying through PLN and being matched with our mentor, we were invited to the introduction evening where we got the chance to meet our fellow mentees, chat about what we all wanted to get out of the experience and set up a plan for our first official meeting. Our mentor was working abroad at the time so we had a virtual mentorship – all this meant was that our meetings were on skype rather than in-person! You also have to appoint a team leader which I highly recommend putting yourself forward for if you’re looking to practice your organisational/admin skills.

Mentor Meetings

So, these were the main focus of the mentoring scheme and BY FAR one of the most important things I did in final year. Every group is different but our setup was just to come to the meeting with a few questions for our mentor as starting points and then let the conversation flow. The advice and insight we gained was invaluable and really helped me to narrow down what areas I’d be interested working in. We were also incredibly lucky in that our mentor was so engaged and would send follow up documents with links to internships, volunteer programmes etc. to do with things we had discussed. One of the best things to come out of the scheme for me was my mentor giving me a contact who was doing the same volunteering abroad that I was interested in – you don’t get this kind of career help every day!

Tips to make the most of your meetings:

  • Build a set of questions between each meeting so you can get the most out of your time with your mentor, rather than just turning up for a chat!
  • Follow up on any tips or leads your mentor gives you before your next meeting – this gives you a chance to build a good back-and-forth and helps your conversations to progress.
  • Work as a team with your fellow mentees! Since you have similar interests they are the best people to collaborate with and talk to about your ideas for the future.

Why I Recommend the Scheme

Overall, I didn’t realise how much I needed the mentor scheme until I did it. Not only did it give me a chance to build connections and get advice directly from an industry professional, but I was also able to practice my communication and organisational skills. With graduation looming the pressure to know what you’re doing next can be intense but my advice is to get involved with schemes like this, explore your options and you’ll go forward with a much clearer idea of what you want!

Further information

Securing a mentor can help you to develop key skills that employers are looking for, such as communication and personal skills, increase your confidence and motivation and provide you with an opportunity to delve deeper into an area of law or non-law that you are considering pursuing.

The Law in Society Mentoring Scheme opens for applications on Monday 12 October. Many of the mentoring schemes on offer through the Law School close for applications at the end of October 2020, so make sure you read about each scheme before applying. Find out more about our various mentoring schemes and how to apply here.