“I am the first one in my family to attend law school and I remember how nervous I was during the application process. I had no guidance and taught myself everything. When I heard about the Shadow Program, I immediately signed up because I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to get a more personal perspective into real property law, an area of law I am interested in.” This is what Nazneen Sindha, Law’24, has to say about why she was eager to participate in the Shadow Program. Facilitated by the Career Development Office (CDO), this program matches first-year students with employers to learn first-hand how to navigate law school and the job search process.
Sindha’s mentor was Robert Eisenberg, Law’14, a partner with WeirFoulds LLP in Toronto. “Queen’s Law is a wonderful community and I found that when I was a student in Nazneen’s position, I was able to reach out to upper-year students and alumni to ask questions and get advice during my own recruitment process,” he says.
For Eisenberg, participating in the Shadow Program is part of “paying it forward” and preserving the connection amongst Queen’s Law grads. “As the first lawyer in my family, I also remember feeling very anxious and overwhelmed by the process – you don’t know what you don’t know. I hope that by participating in this program, I can help students better understand the recruitment process, realize what’s important to them and what their own goals are, and formulate a strategy for navigating the process.”
This Shadow Program pair met via Zoom on February 24. Like with all his mentees, Eisenberg first took the time to get to know Sindha and find out what was important to her. Then, together, they developed a plan to cover the material she wanted to learn about and to find some strategies that would work for her. “Robert created a very welcoming environment from the moment the meeting started until the very end,” says Sindha. “He did not rush through anything and answered all my questions thoroughly.”
In addition to talking about practising real property law and how the job recruitment process works, Eisenberg gave her tips on studying to excel in her upper years, planning for bar admission exams, researching and differentiating the various firms participating in on-campus interviews (OCIs), and writing an effective resume and cover letter. He also shared with her what firms look for in students generally, interview strategies, and what he finds most important: “Students need to be honest with themselves about what they’re looking for in a job and what kinds of opportunities are important to them. It’s so easy to get carried away in the frenzy of the process that people often lose sight of what matters to them and makes them happy and instead focus on what they think should be important to them – be it firm reputation, compensation, or whatever.
“At the end of the day, the OCI process, and student recruitment more generally, is about finding a good fit that works both ways,” he continues. “If a student tries to fit into a firm, then I’ve found they usually don’t stay happy long. Instead, if students try to find a firm that fits them as well, it leads to much greater satisfaction. Ultimately, I think that we can all get lost in the purpose of student recruitment and what success looks like; ‘winning’ shouldn’t be about just getting any job, it should be about finding the right job – and the right job is different for every person. I think changing the perspective on the process goes a long way towards reducing the anxiety and strain on mental health.”
That piece of advice stuck with Sindha. “I will always remember to stay honest with myself during the recruitment process and not pretend to be someone I’m not in order to try to ‘fit’ into a specific firm,” she says. “I instantly felt less anxious because I felt like I was already losing sight of what was most important to me when researching firms.”
The idea that jobs are like shoes because no “one size fits all” is also something that Sindha learned last fall in the “Discovering your Career Path in Law” session, organized by the CDO. “Instead of focusing on trying to fit into a certain firm, I will focus more on what firm fits in with my own values, interests, and strengths,” she says. “I now realize how important it is to self-reflect and think about what really matters to me before I decide on a certain area of law.”
In this year’s Shadow Program, the CDO matched 84 students with alumni representing diverse areas of law. These areas included human rights, Indigenous rights, real estate, immigration, labour, employment, intellectual property, family, sports, and entertainment. Participating alumni cover a range of legal careers ranging from working with corporations in-house, the government, and public-interest organizations to practising with small and large firms. What stands out most to Sara Ali, who manages the Shadow Program, is how students are very interested and open to learning about different types of employers and areas of law. “To me, it demonstrates how students are discovering different areas of law that they might be interested in early in law school, so they can navigate next steps in pursuing their career,” she says.
More than half the alumni participants in this year's program are returning mentors, and new grads from as far away as Yukon signed on because of the remote option offered due to the pandemic. “The most common feedback I receive each year is how much alumni love this program, for the opportunity to engage with students in a different way to support their career path,” says Ali. “The Shadow Program has definitely become a staple at Queen’s Law, and I look forward to seeing it continue to grow each year.”
Eisenberg is one of those repeat Shadow Program volunteers. “I’ve found that Queen’s Law continues to produce not only great lawyers, but great people, too,” he says. “The students I’ve worked with over the past several years have all been bright, kind people and it gives me a sense of great personal fulfilment to help encourage them towards their goals.”
Being a volunteer mentor has also been beneficial to Eisenberg as an interviewer. “Now that I’ve also worked on the other side of the recruitment process for seven years, I find these chats really helpful in terms of maintaining my own perspective and grounding me during the process,” he says. “It’s always helpful to remember your roots and how it felt being the interviewee! I think it makes me a better interviewer now, too.”