Never Underestimate the Power of Lunch
USF’s Alumni Mentor Program Builds Connections and Launches Careers
For Jordan Kelley 1L, monthly lunch dates with Katie Burke ’02 are an opportunity to connect with the USF School of Law network while growing both as a student and as an aspiring attorney. Each month, Burke encourages Kelley to set specific tasks for herself — whether that’s centered on maintaining good grades or reaching out to other family law attorneys — and checks in on her progress during their next meeting.
“She really holds me accountable,” Kelley said. “I have gotten so much more out of my first year because of that relationship with Katie. This mentorship has made me feel much more part of the USF network.”
The pair’s success exemplifies the Alumni Mentor Program’s core purpose of building professional connections between USF law students and USF School of Law’s accomplished network of alumni working in all areas of the law.
“The program gives alumni a way to give back to the next generation of USF lawyers and stay closely connected to the law school, while students get a jump start on building their professional networks and engaging with the legal community,” said Keya Koul, senior associate director of alumni relations and interim director of the Office of Career Planning.
Burke, a solo practitioner with Burke Family Law, regularly invites Kelley to accompany her to meetings of family law attorneys and judges, always making sure to introduce her to the group as a whole and to then encourage her to introduce herself individually. At one meeting, six family law attorneys gave Kelley their business cards, and Burke encouraged Kelley to follow up with personalized emails and informal coffee meetings, when possible.
Such a request might seem easy for experienced attorneys, but for the naturally shy Kelley, the task was a big step outside her comfort zone. Yet it’s already paid off — Kelley landed a summer internship with the San Francisco Superior Court after meeting someone who asked if she might be interested in a family court clerkship position.
“If it weren’t for Katie pushing me to get myself out there, I probably wouldn’t have this internship,” Jordan said. “It’s been a great experience working with Katie.”
For her part, Burke views her time working with Kelley as a chance to use her experience to help an up-and-coming family law attorney. “She’s been very clear about her goals, so I’ve been very specific about things that would work to her advantage,” Burke said.
Burke has reviewed Kelley’s resume and cover letter and after their monthly lunch dates, sends an email to Kelley recapping the next steps. Such tasks, she said, take just a few extra minutes of time but can have a big impact on a student. As for the monthly lunch dates? “I have to eat anyway. If she’s willing to come downtown, I can’t think of one reason not to take a once-a-month meeting,” Burke said.
“At a certain point, I feel like if you’ve had career success, you should be mentoring people who are interested in the same career path,” Burke said. “When the opportunity to be a part of the Alumni Mentor Program came along, I knew right away I wanted to participate.”