“If you light a lamp for someone, it will also brighten your own path."
Participants in the UB Law Mentor Program understand, first-hand, the meaning of that well known proverb, often attributed to Buddhist teachings. For two decades now, the law school’s Career Services Office and the UB Law Alumni Association have made sure every 1L student is matched with a mentor—a practicing lawyer who understands the rigors of law school and can shed light on the landscape of the legal profession. In turn, mentors have an opportunity to build relationships and connect directly with the next generation of the profession.
Those new connections took form for this year’s entering class at a January matching reception in the law school’s library attended by approximately 200 students and mentors. Its an annual tradition touted as a highlight of the academic year, where students often meet their assigned mentor for the very first time. Mentors from outside the Buffalo area will have a chance to connect with their assigned mentees at a virtual reception later this week.
“The 1L mentor program is an incredible opportunity for law students to forge meaningful connections with established members of our legal community,” says Elizabeth A. Kraengel ’07, LAA president and a partner at Duke, Holzman, Photiadis & Gresens LLP. “From offering relevant experience, serving as a sounding board and source of constructive feedback, to helping expand networks, mentoring is an important part of professional development, and the LAA is proud to support this program.”
Want to be involved? Sign up for next year’s Mentor Program by contacting our Career Services Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kraengel was matched with 1L Sara Beyer '25, who immediately felt embraced by the law school community. "Liz was so welcoming and so happy to introduce me to her friends, colleagues, and even past mentees," says Beyer. "It was clear to me that everyone volunteering their time with the Mentor Program just wants to see the new classes going through UB Law succeed. I know Buffalo’s legal community is pretty tight-knit, and it’s incredibly encouraging to know how willing it is to take UB’s 1Ls under its wing."
“We’ve had great success with alumni and friends volunteering as mentors, even folks from out of town,” says John Godsoe ’00, a member of the LAA board of directors and chair of the Association’s mentor committee. He’s also a partner with Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC, sponsor of the mentor reception.
“The goal,” he says, “is to connect the students with someone who has expertise in the area they want to go into, or connect them based on their interest in a geographic location. It’s a good chance for them to start building relationships, which is a big part of being a lawyer.”
As a mentor himself, Godsoe says, it helps to remember what the experience of law school was like. “I try to put myself in their shoes, and think about what my concerns and fears were,” he says. “You’re coming into a new situation, and I remind them that you don’t have to know what you want to do with your life right away or what kind of law you want to practice. A lot of it is just calming nerves.”
And like a healthy friendship, the mentor-mentee relationship works both ways. Mentors often say the experience of reconnecting with UB Law and the energy of students reminds them of what drew them to the field in the first place.
“It gives us a chance to see what the future of the legal field looks like,” Godsoe says, “and it brings back memories.”
That’s true as well for Kerisha H. Hawthorne-Greer ’14, who reconnected with the law school when she moved back to Buffalo from Binghamton several years ago. Hawthorne-Greer, who serves as principal law clerk to Hon. Stephanie Saunders in the New York State Court of Claims, mentors students through the law school’s program and also on behalf of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York.
She says she’s motivated by the philosophy—“To whom much is given, much is expected”—but also by the guidance she received as a student early in her career.
“The attorneys I had the opportunity to interact with were very invested in my future,” Hawthorne-Greer says. “They always made themselves available to answer questions, and I always knew I had that person to reach out to, someone who would encourage me along the way. As a Black law student, it was important to me to see other successful attorneys in the field. I knew if they could do it, I could, too.”
Now she tries to do the same for her mentees who look to her for hard-earned wisdom. “As a first-generation law student, and as someone who has no family members working in the legal field, I didn’t have anyone I could reach out to for career guidance until UB Law’s mentor program matched me with Ms. Kerisha Hawthorne-Greer,” says including Kim H. Suy ’25. “At the mentor reception, Ms. Hawthorne-Greer shared her legal career path with me; provided me with job search advice; and imparted useful information about the job application process. As a mentee, I hope to gain more insight and knowledge into what exactly a legal career requires of me.”
“A lot of people really poured themselves into my educational advancement and improvement, and I wanted to do the same,” says Hawthorne-Greer. “If a student wants to utilize me, ask me questions, tap into the resources I have, I will make myself available. The reward is knowing that I’m giving back to the community, to the school and to other students like myself.”