When UC Law SF law student Rachel Shefer ’24 was searching for a summer internship, her mentor Sharon Hartley ’91 offered words of encouragement. Hartley helped Shefer brainstorm different types of internships and gave her advice on how to network and get the most out of an internship experience.
Thanks to that advice, Shefer said she gained valuable knowledge and experience from her internship at a small law firm last summer.
Hartley, a practicing attorney, also emphasized the importance of self-care. “She reminded me not to worry too much and to remember that law school is temporary, but the resilience and optimism I practice will stay with me forever,” Shefer said.
Hartley and Shefer met as part of the Alumni Mentor Program, which pairs UC Law SF students with alumni and practicing attorneys. The program started over 30 years ago and is managed by the law school’s Career Development Office.
“The program provides our students with the invaluable opportunity to explore legal career options and pathways, and to start building a professional network with the help of our distinguished and supportive alums or other participating attorneys,” said Koreen Kelleher, director of the Alumni Mentor Program.
The program has grown to match as many as 300 law students each year. Participating students get job advice, pointers, and a listening ear from experienced attorneys, who are usually alumni.
This fall, law students got to mix and mingle with mentors at a reception in September to kick off the program for the academic year. That’s where Hartley and Shefer met in person for the first time after chatting numerous times over Zoom and email during the pandemic.
Hartley, who works as Administrative Director Risk Management Legal Counsel at Stanford Health Care, said an encouraging mentor can make a big difference for law students, “It’s important to have someone who is supportive of you, who gives you advice, and makes you feel like they’re on your team.”
The Career Development Office partners with nine student organizations on campus — including groups that focus on specific legal fields, such as business law or environmental law — to connect law students with mentors whose practice areas match their interests.
Each student-mentor pair decides how to communicate, whether by zoom, phone, email, or in-person, and what level of support to provide – from giving advice on how to enter a practice area or build a professional network to reviewing a student’s resume.
When law student Gina Cassar ’23 got paired with a mentor in her 2L year, she was feeling anxious about her first summer job at a big law firm. Her mentor, Lauren Rose Keller ’09, reassured her and advised her to focus on networking, finding new mentors, and asking questions. “That was key to building relationships with the attorneys there,” Cassar said.
Reflecting on how mentors helped her in the past, Keller said she believes it’s important to give back and support the next generation of legal professionals. She works at Jacobacci & Associati in Italy, specializing in cross-border intellectual property matters. “I think there’s a lot of value in talking to students and finding ways to get them to reflect on what really interests them and what they want to do,” she said.
Cassar said her talks with Keller gave her the confidence to pursue business law after she graduates next spring. She said, “I have greatly valued Lauren’s advice and the opportunity to have in-depth conversations about my long-term career goals.”