The Students Behind the Marquette Law Mentorship Program

This is the fifth in a continuing series of weekly blog posts this semester about the work of Marquette Law School’s Office of Student Affairs. The opening post, like this one by Dean Joseph Kearney, can be found here; subsequent posts can be found here, here, and here.

Students at fall 2024 MLM event
MLM’s Fall 2024 Kick-Off Event. Photo courtesy of MLM Co-chair Isaiahs Luna.

Mentorship is a word that is heard a lot in the legal profession. Whatever else might be required for successful mentorship, it takes work to create an environment in which real relationships can form and appropriate counsel is offered and received.

Without doubting that there is much mentorship at the Law School, the Office of Student Affairs has assumed a particular portfolio in this sphere, with a good deal of the work being done by the student co-chairs of the Marquette Law Mentorship (MLM) Program. Under the leadership of Assistant Dean Anna Fodor, the office started the program in 2017, on the premise that if we should have a well-organized program, supported by the Office of Student Affairs and led each year by a pair of dedicated, skilled, and community-oriented upper-level students, the program would have a pretty good shot at succeeding.

So who better than this year’s MLM co-chairs, third-year students Isaiahs Luna and Courtney Tarnow, to describe the program and some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it? Here’s an interview of sorts, lightly edited, with Isaiahs and Courtney. Permit me as dean to extend my deep and sincere thanks to them—and to all of our past MLM co-chairs—for the time and work they have put into building, growing, and sustaining this important program at Marquette Law School.

In your words, what is the Marquette Law Mentorship Program?

Isaiahs: The Marquette Law Mentorship Program is a community-focused mission to foster professional and personal relationships within the Law School. The program allows upperclassmen and women to provide unique guidance that is personal to the first-year law student. The pairings are based on interests in the law, hometowns, and extracurricular activities, just to name a few factors.

Courtney: The Marquette Law Mentorship Program is an initiative designed to connect first-year law students with their upper-level peers to provide guidance, support, and camaraderie during their law school journey. Mentors offer insights, advice, and encouragement to their mentees, helping them adjust to the demands of law school and integrate into the greater law school community.

Overall, MLM aims to foster a sense of community and collaboration among law students, while also providing valuable peer support to allow first-year students to thrive both academically and personally during their time at Marquette.

Can you please describe your role as a co-chair of MLM?

Courtney: As an MLM co-chair, my role involves overseeing and coordinating various aspects of the mentorship program to ensure that the program is a success. Throughout the summer and fall semester, I worked closely with both my co-chair, Isaiahs, and Dean Fodor to advertise the program, train mentors, pair mentors and mentees, and schedule our Kick-Off Event.

Isaiahs: As co-chair of the Mentorship Program, there is a collaborative effort between you, your co-chair, and Dean Fodor. With Dean Fodor, we scheduled the Kick-Off Event and provided training for mentors. This was to ensure that mentors could provide the best guidance for first-year law students. We advised the mentors of the various resources that Marquette Law has available to students, and we had the potential mentors examine hypothetical situations a mentor might come across.

Of course, the most fun aspect of our role as co-chairs is to make the pairings. Courtney and I reserved a seminar room and, working from the forms that the students submitted, paired all the students who had signed up to participate in the program. It was a long process (around 12 hours), but we wanted to make sure everyone’s pairing was as perfect as it could be.

Community-building organizations must be energizing for you to enjoy the process and make them a success. Despite the long hours, we left that day even more excited for the program to get underway.

When matching mentors with mentees, what qualities or interests did you prioritize?

Isaiahs: Before anything else, I always checked if the mentor/mentee requested a certain characteristic or quality about their potential mentor/mentee in their form (for example, a 1L might request that their mentor be a person of color with a similar background). Next, I wanted to make sure out-of-staters were paired together (say, California mentors with California mentees) so they could begin to find a new community in Wisconsin right away. Then, I focused on the type of law the student was interested in. This was followed by taking into consideration any student organizations the first-year student wanted to be a part of.

Courtney: There were several qualities and interests that we prioritized while matching mentors and mentees to ensure there would be successful and meaningful connections. As Isaiahs mentioned, to start, we looked at the specific mentor and mentee requests. For example, some students requested not to be paired with someone specific because they already knew them well, or some students requested that their mentor be from out of state because they were also from out of state. After we paired up everyone who had made specific requests, we typically looked at interests such as area of law, student organizations, and other non-academic interests.

What was the hardest part about the matching process?

Courtney: The hardest part of the matching process was trying to balance and to work with the various information we had, to ensure everyone had the best match possible. In some instances, based on how much a student had provided, we had very little information to work with. That made it somewhat difficult to ensure that we were making a good pairing.

Isaiahs: I completely agree. The hardest part about the matching process really was the lack of diversity in some answers. To provide an example, there were many people who listed transactional law as the type of law they wanted to practice, but they did not provide any other information about their interests or background. So when all the transactional-law-interested mentees were paired up, we had a tough time pairing up transactional-law-interested mentors who had not provided additional information, beyond their interest in that practice. For students interested in participating in the future, we especially encourage them to share some further information about what makes them unique—from a random hobby to their major in college.

What do you hope mentees get out of MLM?

Isaiahs: At a minimum, a connection—whether professional or social. I think a connection is important to start law school. I continue to keep in contact with my mentor, who’s now graduated, and she continues to guide me throughout law school. More importantly, she has become a friend for life.

Courtney: The one thing I hope that every mentee gets out of their participation with MLM is a stronger sense of belonging and connection within the law school community. One of my favorite things about Marquette is that we have such a strong, collaborative community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and I hope that through MLM, mentees are able to feel like they truly belong here, right from the start.

What do you hope mentors get out of MLM?

Courtney: I hope that mentors will, first and foremost, experience personal satisfaction from their participation in MLM. Additionally, I think being a mentor is a great way to develop leadership and communication skills, expand your personal network, and contribute to enhancing the law school community.

How do you think the law school community, as a whole, benefits from the program?

Isaiahs: A sense of community. Given how interconnected the Milwaukee legal market is, it is important we establish a positive community from the first chance we have—and that starts at law school.

Courtney: The law school community as a whole benefits from MLM in a few significant ways. First, MLM cultivates a culture of support and collaboration within the Law School by facilitating relationships between students. Second, MLM promotes networking and relationship building. Mentors and mentees can develop meaningful connections beyond the mentorship relationship and allow for a network among current and future legal professionals. Third, MLM helps promote professional development for both mentors and mentees.

What has been your favorite part of serving as an MLM co-chair?

 Courtney: My favorite part about serving as an MLM co-chair has been the successful matches. There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing mentors and mentees together at school, getting dinner together, going to bar review, etc.

Isaiahs: I have to agree with Courtney. It’s the successful matches. When people come up to me and say, “Hey, I really loved my [mentor/mentee],” it brings me so much joy.

Any parting thoughts as you prepare to graduate?

Isaiahs: I cannot thank Dean Fodor enough for her belief in me. I look back to my 1L year, and I look back with joy and awe at all the opportunities I have come across. And, truly, it starts with Dean Fodor. Her unwavering support throughout my time here will never be forgotten. I would not be where I am without her (I almost transferred back to California), and I only wish to give back to the Marquette Law community as much I received. I am grateful.

Courtney: As I prepare to graduate, I’ve reflected a lot on my time at Marquette, both for undergrad and law school. Marquette has provided me with so many amazing experiences, and I can’t thank Dean Fodor enough for giving me the opportunity to participate in MLM, as a mentee, mentor, and now as co-chair. This process was so challenging but also so rewarding, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.

Continue ReadingThe Students Behind the Marquette Law Mentorship Program

By the Students, For the Students

This post, by the Assistant Director of Student Affairs, is the fourth in a series of weekly blog posts this semester concerning the work of the Office of Student Affairs. The first, by Dean Kearney, can be found here, and the second and third, by Assistant Dean of Students Anna Fodor, are available here and here.

FGP's 2023 First-Gen Mixer Photo
First Generation Professionals’ fall 2023 First-Gen Mixer at Third Street Market Hall. Photo courtesy of Emily Kehl, president of FGP.

Student organizations are a staple at educational institutions, including Marquette University Law School. These organizations offer students opportunities to form their own smaller communities within a larger institution. Here at Marquette Law School—whether driven by a particular practice area, an aspect of students’ personal identity, or a legal philosophy—student-run organizations offer a way for future Marquette lawyers to build connections with their peers and beyond. It might even surprise some to learn how much these “outside of the classroom” interactions shape a student’s development, contribute to identity formation, and can affect student retention and performance.[1]

Registered student organizations[2] are the one aspect of the law school experience run by students, for students. They are completely voluntary and extracurricular, with no academic prescriptions or curricular incentives for holding or attending events (on the other hand, free food, no mean incentive, is widely available); the interests and activities of students entirely drive these communities. Through them, students help create the “culture” at a particular school. How active (or inactive) an organization is, what it chooses to do, which speakers it brings to campus, how inviting and inclusive its programs are—all of these affect a law school’s culture and the student experience.

Let me give a quick highlight of our Marquette Law School student organizations and some representative engagement opportunities:

  • 35+ active organizations
  • 80+ meetings, speakers, panels, socials, and networking events during the Fall 2023 Semester
  • 150+ student leadership positions

Forum “tabling” events are quick and small ways by which students can engage with each other, with a fun “swing by for a few minutes” vibe; a few examples:

  • The Organization for Student Wellbeing’s Savor the Sips social tabling
  • Hispanic Latino Law Students Association’s monthly Taco Tuesday fundraiser
  • Student Bar Association’s Welcome Back donuts

For organizations that host a guest speaker or panel of speakers, each event brings in practicing attorneys, judges, or experts in their field to discuss legal issues. Recent examples include:

  • Labor and Employment Law Society’s AI and the Workforce panel
  • The Federalist Society’s speaker event with the Hon. Michael Brennan discussing Biden v. Nebraska and federal student loan debt
  • Out and Allies speaker event to discuss LGBTQ+ Issues in Education

Social and networking events allow our students to build lasting friendships, meet practitioners, and gather outside of Eckstein Hall. At one point or another, almost all of our organizations host networking events with their professional chapter equivalents or local bar associations. A sampling of RSOs’ recent social and networking events:

  • Sports Law Society’s annual Brewers tailgate and game
  • Real Estate Law Society’s monthly happy hour
  • First Generation Professionals’ annual first-gen mixer
  • Asian Law Students Association’s fall boba tea gathering

And a few signature events get the entirety of the student body, often along with faculty and staff, involved, engaged, and feeling like part of our greater community. These include:

  • Canned Immunity, the collaborative week-long donation drive spearheaded by our Association for Women Lawyers to collect canned goods and food for local community food banks. Interested professors grant “on call” immunity during the week for students to bring in a donation.
  • The Period Products Initiative, led by the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Society and the Office of Student Affairs, provides free period products in the women’s bathrooms throughout the building. The students ensure that the boxes are filled while the Office of Student Affairs purchases and maintains the inventory.
  • Barristers’ Ball is the Student Bar Association’s annual signature formal event. It recognizes all the work put into the year by the students and provides a highlight to celebrate the end of another great year.

So, if all this is “by the students and for the students,” what do I even do around here?

Well, I work to make it all happen. At the beginning of each academic year, I provide training to the more than 150 student leaders, going over policies and procedures to help them think about and plan these events. Working with law school colleagues, I organize the students (or the events) so that we avoid major scheduling conflicts, reserve spaces for their meetings, coordinate complimentary parking for their guests, help track their budgets, and process reimbursements and payments, among other things. In my experience, you never get to know people better than by working on a project with them, and it’s one of my favorite things to get to see a new idea blossom into a successful community event (looking at you, SBA Chili Cook-off!)

Our student-run organizations foster connections and enrich our Law School, and we, in turn, do our best to support their efforts to reach their own goals. We do this because, ultimately, national research and local experience show that the more that our students engage with each other, the more they feel they belong to our law school culture—and, by extension, in the legal profession as a whole.

[1] Give Chickering’s seven vectors or Astin’s theory of involvement a good Google. They help form the foundation of student development theory.

[2] Registered student organizations (RSOs) are groups that are completely voluntary and where students do not receive any sort of academic credit for their work. So law journals, moot court, and client skills work typically fall outside this category. The Public Interest Law Society, by contrast to both these co-curricular organizations and RSOs, falls into what might be called a department-sponsored organization category.

Continue ReadingBy the Students, For the Students

Law School Alphabet Soup

This is the third in a series of weekly blog posts this semester concerning the Office of Student Affairs (past entries can be found here and here).Photo of alphabet soup

As soon as one walks through the doors of Eckstein Hall, she is likely to hear any number of initialisms and acronyms: ASP, AWA, CPC, CREAC, FGP, IRAC, LGL, MLM, MVLC, NSLI, OTI, SBA, and SSP, just to name a few. Some may already be conversant with Washington, D.C.’s “alphabet soup” (primarily made up of federal-agency abbreviations). Here at Marquette Law School, we have our own version.

For those new to our community, I’ve included at the bottom of this post a glossary of the above terms. Perhaps it might help ease the transition. But I’ll focus especially on the first and last of the list: ASP and SSP.

The Academic Success Program or ASP—where a pair of upper-level students lead weekly review and skill-building sessions for each first-year doctrinal course—is a core feature of the 1L experience here. I say “here” because you won’t find a program like ASP at every law school. In fact, some preliminary research, looking at supplementary academic programs across 199 U.S. law schools, yielded only about 20 other law schools that hold sessions akin to those of our ASP program.*

Each Marquette ASP session lasts 45 minutes—often over the lunch hour, but sometimes necessitating an even earlier start to the day than the course schedule requires. With three sessions per week (one for each doctrinal 1L course each semester), that amounts to two hours and 15 minutes of time that students might otherwise spend reading, talking, sleeping, networking, applying to jobs, or doing any number of other worthy and valuable things. Time is a precious commodity in law school, and we suggest to our 1Ls that they spend 135 minutes of their week attending ASP.

And they do so—with roughly 79% of the entering class of 2023, for example, attending 10 or more sessions in their first semester. Neither the Law School nor individual faculty members require 1Ls to attend ASP. Rather, first-year students are self-motivated to do so because of the opportunity to review, clarify, and—critically—apply the material taught in the prior calendar week’s classes.

As you might surmise, though, it’s not the numbers that make the program special. It’s the people. (If you’ve read the prior two posts in this series, you might also begin to sense a theme.) Our ASP student leaders are selected not merely based on their successful performance in the course during their own first year. Their selection is guided by their desire to be a resource to first-year students, their intellectual humility and professionalism, and their willingness to sacrifice some of their own upper-level course preferences to be able to sit in on every class meeting of the doctrinal course. The upper-level ASP student leaders observe the classes, work with faculty members, prepare for the sessions, present, and self-assess. These impressive student leaders receive credit for their time and work, but, if I had to guess, I think most would do it even without that. Such is the pride that ASP leaders take in their work, having remembered the benefit they reaped from the program when they were 1Ls.

On the other end of the alphabet, we find the Student Success Program or SSP. We regard ASP and SSP as an integrated series, with each intended to complement the other.

SSP features regular fall-semester workshops that aim to provide a foundational understanding of how to “do” law school. SSP starts with videos in our online Pre-Orientation program. The videos walk a student through how (and why) to read a case in law school. Unfortunately for our students, I’m the star of those initial sessions. But things quickly take a turn for the better, as—for the remainder of the semester—our upper-level SSP student leaders take the helm to plan, rehearse, and present as many as eight workshops on topics ranging from synthesizing notes to outlining to exam writing.

SSP, too, is an entirely voluntary program, and yet, this past fall, attendance at the sessions averaged over 75% of the first-year class. It might not hurt that we offer participating students a free lunch, but I prefer to think of that as simply an added bonus.

ASP and SSP are not the only paths to academic enrichment; classes are, of course, at the heart of the law-school experience, and faculty and staff routinely work one-on-one with students to discuss content and individualized learning strategies. But ASP and SSP provide students with another important and informal setting for learning, not to mention built-in mentorship from leaders eager to help. Thus, for Marquette law students, ASP and SSP really are key terms.


ASPAcademic Success Program: Weekly skill-building sessions, led by upper-level student leaders, for each first-year doctrinal course

AWA – Appellate Writing and Advocacy: Upper-level workshop course offered annually in the fall semester; a prerequisite for participation in the Law School’s Moot Court Program

CPC Career Planning Center: Located in suite 240, the CPC provides programming, resources, and one-on-one advising to Marquette law students as they pursue their professional goals—from internships to post-graduate employment.

CREAC – Conclusion, Rule, Explanation, Application, Conclusion: A common organizational structure used for writing legal briefs and memoranda; typically taught in the Law School’s first-year Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research courses

FGPFirst Generation Professionals: Student-run organization that brings together students of all backgrounds who are the first in their families to attend law school; one of the largest student-run organizations at Marquette Law School

IRAC – Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion: A common organizational structure used when writing law-school exam answers; explained and discussed in depth at SSP sessions

LGL – Law Governing Lawyers: Marquette Law School’s required course in professional responsibility and lawyer ethics

MLM Marquette Law Mentorship: Marquette Law School’s official mentorship program, which pairs new law students with volunteer upper-level mentors

MVLCMarquette Volunteer Legal Clinics: Legal-advice clinics organized by the Law School, serving especially the Milwaukee community, and staffed by volunteer attorneys and Marquette law students; law students can start volunteering with the MVLCs and other pro bono opportunities as early as the summer before their first year of law school

NSLINational Sports Law Institute: Affiliated with the Marquette Sports Law Program, the NSLI awards the Sports Law Certificate to graduating Marquette law students who complete the associated curricular requirements.

OTIOn the Issues: As one of a series of events hosted by Marquette Law School’s Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education, OTIs bring leading community voices to Eckstein Hall to discuss important and timely policy matters.

SBAStudent Bar Association; With its entire membership elected by the student body, SBA sponsors important law school initiatives as well as annual events, including Barristers’ Ball.

SSPStudent Success Program:  A series of fall-semester workshops that cover the basics of how to “do” law school; led by upper-level student leaders and offered annually to first-year students; shamelessly proudly serves lunch

* My sincere thanks to Abigail Nilsson for her exhaustive (and likely exhausting) research on this topic.

Continue ReadingLaw School Alphabet Soup