The Mentors Collective


If you’re stuck for ideas on how to spend your pre-training contract gap year, why not beef up your CV with some mentoring experience? Meet The Mentors Collective, the programme led by future trainees to help people kickstart their career in law.

Welcome to TMC 

It’s tricky securing a training contract, but that’s certainly no secret. Competition is fiercer than ever, and many applicants don’t have access to networks or resources that can help you nab a position with a firm. With such a massive access gap, it’s no surprise that the legal profession suffers from a lack of diverse representation. This is where The Mentors Collective comes in. The story began when Omar Negm, following his training contract offer from Linklaters, made a post on LinkedIn offering mentoring to five people from disadvantaged backgrounds. “I received hundreds of private messages from people needing help,” he told us. It got me thinking, why can’t we have a programme that caters to this audience? One that’s led by future trainees instead of lawyers or organisations.” 

“We want to work with those who have been through the process, failed, learned from that and have come to us ready to develop and succeed the next time around.” 

To attract those with the drive to secure a training contract, TMC exclusively takes on mentees who have already been through a round of unsuccessful TC applications. “I really wanted to focus on helping those who have faced difficulties reaching their potential, both through application rejections and because of their backgrounds,” Omar outlines. “We want to work with those who have been through the process, failed, learned from that and have come to us ready to develop and succeed the next time around.” So, with the addition of a few mentors and a growing leadership team – all of whom are future traineesTMC is officially finding its place in the landscape of early legal careers. 

Flexibility is the name of the game for both mentees and mentors: mentors can work around their schedules without being closely monitored, while mentees can get advice from any of TMC’s mentors. Omar elaborates, “I found that model of matching mentors to mentees to be defective. Most people don’t get in touch and connect and, when they do, the mentee is limited to the insights of their single mentor.” Instead, TMC mentors update their availability weekly, and mentees are welcome to book in time with those who have experience with certain types of firms. “We might not know everything about the recruitment process,” says Omar, but the knowledge that we do provide is based on our experiences.” 

The TMC Experience 

“I’d say TMC is the whole package,” future CMS trainee and ex-TMC mentee Shaina Haria tells us. “Genuinely, it’s an aspiring lawyer’s dream!” To explain the set-up, TMC offers group sessions, workshops and one-to-ones, as well as a growing resource bank which is informed by mentors’ past interview experiencesThere’s also a combination of more formal scheduling such as panel events, as well as more informal community group chats and opportunities to ask for advice. Shaina offers an example, telling us how, “if I had the jitters the day before an assessment centre, I could message a mentor and they’d happily pop on a quick Zoom or phone call to ease me. That emotional support is really unique.” Even with such personal touches, TMC has clear guidelines on professional conduct for both mentors and mentees. The ways in which we communicate can be informal, but that doesn’t mean that mentors can just do what they want,” Mayong Tabe, future Linklaters trainee and one of TMC’s first mentors, summarises. We teach them the nuts and bolts of mentoring and how to best advise mentees, while also giving them the independence to deliver their mentoring in a way that best suits them.” 

“I use my experience to shape the advice I give. 

The base requirement of mentor eligibility is a training contract offer and enthusiasm to help others on their path to a training contract. “I use my experience to shape the advice I give,” says Mayongbut it depends. Sometimes it's about being a listening ear and giving mentees some support and confidence. Not everything has to be grand.” As such, one-to-ones function like office hours: mentees book a slot and can ask their mentors for anything they need help with. Mayong explains how she has advised mentees on application writing, professional soft skills and tips on how to conduct yourself in the workplace as a woman and/or person of colour. Mentors offer candid feedback on applications based on their experience with the same or similar firms. For this reason, mentees are encouraged to reach out to any mentor with experience applying to a firm they’ve got their eyes on. “It was important to hear from people who had been through the process themselves quite recently, and that information made all the difference when it came to securing a vac scheme,” Shaina explains. 

Shaina also found mock interview sessions especially helpful, telling us how she’d join a weekly hour-long zoom meeting for training on key interview skills. “The mentor would ask us questions so we’d have to unmute and engage,” she recalls. “Being put under pressure was vital as it essentially simulated a virtual assessment centre. We could also get prompt feedback on our performance to identify areas we weren’t doing so well in.” There’s nothing like interview practice to get better at it as, no matter how much you’ve prepared, nerves can make or break an interview on the day. However, Shaina adds, “I felt confident going into actual interviews and assessment centres. I’d wait in the virtual interview room knowing that I’d had as much practice as possible and had been put under pressure. It gave me the confidence to know I could deliver.” 

“Mentees come from all over the globe...” 

It’s definitely a great way to fill in the gaps in your skillset, and Shaina offers her own experience as a shining example of the TMC effect: “My commercial awareness wasn’t particularly strong at the start, but I knew it was vital. The relevant sessions were super helpful and have helped it become more than just a buzz word; so much so that I’m now the VP of commercial awareness at TMC and I run those sessions!” She also explains how there are plenty of transferrable skills, such as teamwork and the ability to condense and summarise information. “Mentees come from all over the globe, and many don’t speak English as a first language, she tells us. “That helps you think about the way you communicate with others and explain information. Not only will that prove useful when dealing with clients across the world as a trainee, it will also help when explaining legal concepts to layman clients.” 

Mayong made the most of her experience in delivering workshops on topics such as introductions to a corporate deal and the nuts and bolts on different types of transactions. I became quite familiar with some of the core elements of deal making during my vac scheme, so I can give mentees access to that knowledge,” she explains. “Things like that are key when preparing for assessment centres.” Once again, Omar reminds us how “none of us had such resources and we realised that made it difficult when applying to firms. We wanted to provide mentees with this platform so they can make the most of it.”  

If that’s not enough, then what about the networking opportunities? “I’ve really developed great friendships on the programme and have even met up with some other mentees in person,” Shaina enthuses. There’s no sense of competition among us, just camaraderie. When people receive vac scheme or training contract offers, we’re often among the first few people to be told.” It makes sense, then, that TMC describes itself as a ‘collective’ rather than just a ‘programme,’ as collaboration is core to the experience. As Mayong summarises, “you should only apply if you’re willing to be part of a community, and it’s a thriving community to be a part of.” 

“Even if you’ve only got 30 minutes to spare a week, we’d be happy to have you.” 

The Future 

“The objective for this year is to expand,” Omar outlines. We want to double our number of mentors and mentees.” TMC currently has 202 mentees and is always looking to take on more mentors to help grow the programme. Omar elaborates how it’s really rewarding and doesn’t require lots of time. Even if you’ve only got 30 minutes to spare a week, we’d be happy to have you.”  

Mentee success is another key focus of the programme, and Omar again has clear goals in terms of numbers: “More than half of our mentees secured a vac scheme or internship last year. 80% reached the assessment centre stage, and 25% secured a training contract. We’d like to maintain that 80% while increasing vac scheme success to 70% and training contract offers to 50%.” TMC has already had its fair share of success stories – regularly posted on Instagram and plenty of Mayong’s mentees have since secured training contracts. “It really warms my heart,” she says, “and it’s a passion of mine to be able to add value and give back to people in that way.” 

TMC is also keen to build out its partnerships with other organisations, recently setting up collaborations to offer mentees discounted access to legal publications and training sites. “We’re also reaching out to law firms to try and form partnerships and looking for sponsorships to support the programme,” says Omar. Mayong, who is TMC’s VP of partnerships, tells us how “we’re looking to fuse our forces with other organisations who are passionate about our causes, too.” 

How to get involved... 

If this all sounds right up your street, all you need to do is send in an application. While mentee spots are limited, anyone who wants to join the programme can fill out an application to join the waiting list. Here, applicants can provide any contextual background information and answer questions on their previous applications, “such as how they found them, which firms they applied to and what feedback they received, to get an understanding of their interest in commercial law and their journey so far,” says Omar. However, if you have secured your training contract and want to take part, you can sign up on the website here. “It’s less of an application process and more about getting to know each other,” Mayong tells us. “We encourage mentors from all walks of life, and you never know what a difference you can make.” 

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