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Wise heads offer helping hand

Briefs

Cite as: (2009) 83(06) LIJ, p.12

More than 100 female practitioners have volunteered to open a doorway to the legal world for law students this year under the Victorian Women Lawyers (VWL) mentoring program.

The program, also supported by the Women Barristers Association (WBA), began as a formal initiative in 2008. Students are officially mentored by a mixture of barristers, government lawyers and private practitioners from April to March the following year.

The rising popularity of the program has seen the number of volunteer mentors increase from 85 in its inaugural year to 115.

According to VWL executive member and program coordinator Kate Ashmor, it was becoming obvious that students and mentors were receiving long-term benefits.

“There is a huge demand for mentors and there are opportunities for mentors and students to forge connections, lasting friendships, networks and other mutual benefits.”

Ms Ashmor said that apart from the invaluable advice and leadership development students received, they could also gain references, an insight into the workforce and, in some cases, employment. However, the Transport Department lawyer stressed the mentoring program should not be seen by students as a “job-finding service”.

“It is a listen and learn opportunity. I would have loved this type of opportunity when I was a student,” she said.

The program is viewed as a particularly valuable tool for students who do not have established networks in the profession and attempts are made to match the common professional interests of students and mentors.

The 2009-2010 program was launched on 1 April at a function attended by more than 150 guests.

The minimum requirement for both students and mentors is a monthly face-to-face meeting. Then “it is up to them how the relationship develops”.

Victoria University student Amanda Weeks said she received invaluable advice on career direction, university problems she was encountering and what she would normally have to “learn the hard way” in the workforce.

“As a law student you are constantly reminded that while maybe two-thirds of your class are made up of women, the chances of those women holding jobs and even becoming partners in law firms are very slim,” she said.

“With the mentoring program you are given an opportunity to see successful women working within the field of law, and holding their own, which is all the encouragement you need.”

For more information on the VWL, see http://www.vwl.asn.au

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