Viral post by once-rejected Perkins Coie partner leads to legal mentor nonprofit org
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Updated: An informal networking organization that matched law students and new lawyers with mentors has become a nonprofit organization that's set to grow nationwide.
DLA Piper is a founding sponsor of the Legal Mentor Network, which got its start with a 2020 LinkedIn post that went viral, according to Law.com, a DLA Piper press release and the Legal Mentor Network website.
The post by Perkins Coie partner Brian Potts pictured a rejection letter that he got from his law firm in 2002. He captioned it: “Law students: if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.”
“We have carefully reviewed your file and were impressed by your fine record of achievement and qualifications,” the letter read. “Unfortunately, in light of our projected needs, we are unable to consider your application further.”
The post garnered almost 48,000 reactions and 870 comments, Law.com reports. Potts tried to respond to the many questions that he got and took on several mentees. But he needed help, leading friends and colleagues to volunteer as mentors.
The group became the Legal Mentor Network, which has more than 1,000 mentees and more than 250 mentors from several BigLaw firms and corporate legal departments.
DLA Piper partner Matt Schwartz was one of the early mentors in the network. He now is a senior adviser to the group.
“There is great value in bringing people at different career stages, but with similar interests, together,” he told the ABA Journal in an emailed statement. “The Legal Mentor Network aims to connect lawyers who have a natural rapport, which will in turn cultivate more meaningful mentoring relationships. Focusing on the basic building blocks of professional development is key to having a successful career path and relationships.”
Potts explained how he became a Perkins Coie partner in a 2020 interview with Above the Law. He had applied to the firm—along with every other Am Law 100 firm and many Am Law 200 firms—when he was a 2L at the Vermont Law School. He was rejected by every one of them.
But he was able to land a summer associate job at the law firm where his step-grandfather was a partner in Lexington, Kentucky. The firm also gave Potts his first job after law school.
Potts then decided to go to the University of California at Berkeley School of Law to get an LL.M “mostly as a way to get Berkeley’s name on my resumé,” he told Above the Law. He got all A’s and published an article in the Harvard Environmental Law Review.
With those new accomplishments on his resumé, Potts reapplied to all the top Am Law firms in Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin, where his wife is from. He was rejected by every firm except Baker McKenzie in Chicago, which gave him an interview but not an offer.
He found an associate job with a well-respected midlevel firm in Madison and worked there until he heard from a recruiter for Foley & Lardner. He jumped to that firm’s Madison office and made partner at age 32. He moved to Perkins Coie in Madison because of a client conflict and brought all his major clients with him.
Here’s his advice to law students, as told to Above the Law: “Spend an inordinate amount of time working on your writing (whether you are an excellent writer or not) and studying your area of the law. Work hard. And don’t panic if you haven’t landed your dream job yet. It may be hard to imagine now, but you will be your most marketable three to five years after starting to practice law. So, bide your time.”
Potential mentors and mentees can visit the Legal Mentor Network website here to get involved, according to a Legal Mentor Network press release.
Updated Dec. 2 at 5:38 p.m. to include the statement from DLA Piper partner Matt Schwartz.