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CPIL expands mentorship programming for students

In a rapidly changing legal market, the role of mentors is all the more critical. With this need in mind, the Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL) launched several new programs this year, in addition to introducing new changes to the longstanding attorney-to-student Public Interest Mentor Program.

CPIL started the school year by continuing the traditional student-to-student mentoring program. Incoming first-year public interest students are matched with second and third-year public interest students who serve as a resource to learn more about law school and DePaul’s extensive public interest programming. Mentors helped new students prepare for classes, connect with other students, and even shared an outline or two. Maggie Miller connected with many mentors through CPIL and found the program to be particularly useful in making the transition to law school.

“My favorite aspect of the CPIL mentorship program is the collaborative peer-based guidance,” said Miller. “The legal world and the world of legal education are very interesting new frontiers that were very intimidating when I started law school. Forming friendships with people who have been in my shoes and survived was probably the most helpful thing I did this year.”

During February, CPIL connected students and alumni for a professional mentorship program. Students had the opportunity to meet alumni at the Annual Public Interest Mentorship Reception. This year’s reception featured speed networking, students rotated in small groups among several tables of attorneys. They were able to meet every attorney at the event, learn a bit about their respective practice areas, and spend the remainder of the reception continuing conversations on a one-on-one basis.

After the reception, groups of two to three attorneys were matched with six to eight students for the yearlong meeting three times over the course of the year with the mentorship program. The small groups commit to goal of helping students learn more about the legal profession. Assistant Appellate Defender Gil Lenz (JD ’05), who participated in the mentorship program and reception, finds mentoring law students to be mutually beneficial.

“As a practicing attorney, I think the best way you can help students who want to do public interest work is to meet with them face-to-face and really get into the specifics of what these jobs entail,” Lenz said. “I also believe that the program benefits my agency, the State Appellate Defender. I know that we have had many excellent interns from DePaul over the years, some of whom are now my colleagues. Helping students who are interested in this work find the Appellate Defender is a win-win.”

Margaret Kuzma (JD ’12) a Skadden Fellow with LAF who provides general civil legal services to veterans and their families, also found the mentorship program valuable. Kuzma stated, “I think CPIL students give more to me than I can ever impart to them. Seeing their enthusiasm for public interest law is tremendously motivating. Mentoring them is an absolute pleasure.”

In addition to these programs, CPIL continued to host small group lunches to connect students and attorneys in specific practice areas. The practice areas this year included immigration, veterans’ legal service and juvenile law. The lunches are limited to 20 students and allow the students to have informal conversations with practitioners as opposed to the traditional panel presentation. CPIL is committed to strong mentorship programing to help public interest law students on their path to becoming attorneys.