Find Your Match! Online Dating Giant Still Helping BYU Law to Pair Students with Alumni Mentors
By Nicole Boyd
“It was interesting to take the personality survey because I didn’t know what I’d end up with. I knew the school works with Match.com and was curious what they’d ask to find me a mentor.” – Chandler Stepan (‘22)
The Alumni Allies mentoring program is on its third cycle of pairing BYU Law alumni with current law students using a dating website algorithm. The program is the result of a unique partnership between BYU Law and Match Group, the parent company to Match.com and Chemistry.com; it uses personality matching to create more organic, long-term relationships. Individuals are paired based on more than the obvious similarities like location and interests, including specializations in the legal field.
“Alumni mentors need more connection than, ‘I’m a lawyer and you’re a prospective lawyer,’” explained Gayla Sorenson, former assistant dean of external relations at BYU Law who now serves as executive director of the J.Reuben Clark Law Society. “If you really want to have a meaningful influence on someone, you really have to like that person.”
Getting started in the program is a bit like creating an online dating profile. After answering a series of questions about hobbies, personal interests, and world views, participants are sorted into personality types: builder, explorer, negotiator, or director—or some combination of the four. As you may suspect, certain personality types naturally mesh better than others.
“We also ask the law students if they have any part of their identity that they would like to see reflected in their mentor,” Sorenson said. “For example, if they say they are Native American and they’d like their mentor to be Native American, we try to accommodate that.” After the initial sorting, Sorenson and her panel spend several hours finalizing just the right alumni-student matches.
BYU Law alum Gilbert Bradshaw’s (‘08) survey paired him with 1L student Chandler Stepan. Both fall into the explorer/negotiator categories. “We’ve had really pleasant conversations, trying to learn about each other. It’s not exactly about getting him a job. What we’re really doing is becoming friends,” said Bradshaw.
Creating those kinds of connections comes naturally for the extroverted Bradshaw, who started his own firm in Irvine, California, specializing in federal securities. According to Bradshaw, BYU Law is a place that fosters community in its very architecture and design. “The library carrels are important,” he said. “You become really close friends with your five or eight carrel mates every year. Those deep personal relationships matter.”
Bradshaw likes how the Alumni Allies program makes mentoring easy and enjoyable. There are no mandatory in-person meetings or any pressure to find employment for mentees, and the time commitment isn’t overwhelming. Bradshaw and Stepan just talk for one hour a month on a suggested topic.
Bradshaw feels that as a mentor you can help your partner understand how to navigate the legal profession, as well as how to figure out their objectives. “Many law students don’t really know what their own goals are yet,” said Bradshaw.
Fellow explorer/negotiator, Stepan is currently interning at the White House and appreciates Bradshaw’s insight and candor. “At first I was a little nervous, but the more we talked, the more we started to get comfortable. We really opened up,” said Stepan. “It’s been great to send him questions. He’s also connected me with other lawyers and told me about different aspects of the law. It’s been very eye-opening for me because he’s taught me about the actual workings of the law in practice versus the academic side, which students don’t really get to see very much.”
Bradshaw and Stepan, both Utah natives and choir enthusiasts, had a chance to meet for lunch when Stepan took a family vacation to Disneyland last fall. “The biggest thing our conversations have helped me with is realizing that I should look in every direction, because you never know what type of law you will like,” said Stepan.
More than 100 incoming law students have signed up for the program each year, about 90 percent of each incoming class. This year, Stepan was one of 92 incoming 1L’s who participated in 2019–2020.
“This mentorship has been so important to me to help me guide my own career and figure out what direction I really want to go to in life,” said Stepan. And Sorenson is very pleased with the program’s progress. “The students are enthusiastic and excited to learn about the law, and alums like the opportunity to be engaged and meet to someone who’s just embarking on a career they have known and loved,” she said.
If you’re interested in participating in the Alumni Allies mentoring program, please complete this 2-minute personality survey.