UALR Bowen School of Law created the current Professional Mentor Program (PMP) in 2013. The law school pairs each member of the entering class with a legal professional – a practicing lawyer or judge – who will be available to introduce the student to the legal profession. Students and mentors participating in PMP are provided a copy of a program manual, a road map for understanding and navigating the program. Bowen designed PMP to bring the legal profession and Bowen students together for a rich mentoring experience that focuses on professionalism and to have a positive influence on students’ effectiveness and commitment to serving the legal needs of the public.
The Professional Mentor Program has three primary objectives:
- foster the highest levels of professionalism for students and mentors;
- help students develop the relationship skills necessary for professional success in any employment context; and
- equip students to deepen and broaden their own professional competencies by emphasizing the importance of self-directed learning as students and as lawyers.
This program is rooted in the four-step experiential learning process:
- Plan. Each student, in collaboration with his or her mentor, creates a plan to be implemented after Fall final exams and during the Spring term.
- Observe/participate/create. Students have an experiential opportunity to view the professional world, engage in hands-on lawyering activities, and to better understand the diverse spectrum of work that lawyers and judges do.
- Reflect. Students engage in reflective discussions with mentors and peers to foster the development of each student’s moral compass.
- Integrate. Students are asked to realize the value of the new information and understanding, and to stay focused on both their self-development of core professional competencies required in the profession and the aspirational standards of a fully internalized professional with a deep sense of responsibility for others.
Each first-year student establishes a mentoring relationship with a local lawyer or judge who introduces the student to realities of legal practice, and at the more fundamental level, facilitates conversations essential to the student’s development of professional identity and skills.
Most lawyers and judges who participate in the program work with a primary focus on Bowen’s entering class. The program’s goal is to develop a core group of committed professionals who invest in the future of the profession.
Each first-year student’s individual course of learning is mapped out with his or her mentor in a three-part action plan, known as a Personal and Professional Development Plan (PPDP):
Ethics Mission. The student is asked to reflect on his or her core values and first principles of professionalism and write an ethics mission to guide his or her professional actions. The mission is also shared with his or her mentor.
Experiences. The student and mentor identify two or more experiences they would like to see or do during the year. Resources are provided in the Manual to assist in this process.
Debriefings. The student and mentor identify at least one agreed upon topic to discuss during the year. Topics to discuss in these “debriefings” may be an experience or another topic related to the legal profession or student’s professional identity formation.
Throughout the year, the first-year student is encouraged to take the lead in developing the relationship, engaging the activities necessary to carry out his or her plan.
Those professionals not assigned to a member of the entering class are asked to be available to upper-level students for such informative activities as informational interviews, staffing panel discussions for educational programs for the student body, and shadowing experiences.