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Alumni Short

Database Links Students and Grads With Alumni Mentors

Over the past five years, the Law School has developed a database of 650 alumni lawyers to act as mentors, offering their advice, assistance, and experience to Cornellians trying to find their way into the working world. Mentors practice around the country in all sectors of the legal economy.

“Statistics tell us that 75 to 90 percent of all job openings are never advertised,” says Elizabeth K. Peck, Director of Public Service, who helps to oversee the program. “The only way to find those hidden jobs is to talk with people. The alumni mentoring database is full of graduates who have raised their cyber-hand to say, ‘I want to help. I’m happy to listen, and I’m very approachable.’ Those people may not have a job for a student or recent graduate right now, but they can provide advice, information, and referrals which may ultimately lead to a job.”

For mentees, the process is easy. Using their existing Symplicity account, they can search for mentors by city, state, practice area, career field, law school graduation date, undergraduate college, or undergraduate major. Each listing includes a brief biography and all the contact information necessary to begin a mentoring relationship.

“The database is a great way to get started networking or to expand your base of contacts,” says Alexis Saba ’11, a legal fellow at Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law. “During my job search, I was able contact alumni from across the country to learn about their practices. Nearly all of them wrote back, and all who did were excited to speak with me. I truly enjoyed our calls and the chance to hear first-hand accounts of their experience. These conversations helped me think about my career interests and place my initial job search in a broad context. It was very encouraging to know I had a group of advisors at hand.”

For mentors, the process is simple too. Graduates who would like to serve as mentors can email law.mentoring@cornell.edu. They’ll get a personal reply from a student working for the mentoring program who will walk them through the quick registration process.

“Finding your place in this field can be an incredibly rewarding experience,” says Carrie Pollak ’08, an attorney at Harris Beach in Ithaca. “This is true for every attorney, no matter their practice. Our experience as attorneys is so rich and so challenging that we want to share it with other alumni. So if you are a law student or law grad who is looking for a mentor, take the initiative and reach out. Lawyers are eager to talk about their experiences and hear about your potential. You just have to give them the opportunity.”

It’s a win-win situation, and as the database continues to grow, the ability to create complex networks keeps expanding, offering mentors a way to give back and mentees a path to follow on their job search. “As a career counselor, I want to make sure our students’ first interaction with a mentor is a positive one that moves them forward,” says Peck. “Once they get that traction, they’re better able to find the connections they need. Our goal is to have an alumni mentoring network that will not only lead them to jobs in the short term, but will teach them the networking skills they’ll need for the rest of their lives."