Mentorship Spotlight: Coleman, ’15, and Cavanaugh, ’24

10 Jan 2023    

Ciara Coleman and Murphy Cavanaugh.

Ciara Coleman, '15, and Murphy Cavanaugh, '24, are a mentor and mentee pair in the Nebraska Law Mentor Program. The bond they share has helped Cavanaugh maximize her experience at Nebraska Law and prepare for her future career. 

Since their pairing in Cavanaugh’s first year, the two have developed a strong, supportive mentoring relationship. They discuss everything from trials in the professional and academic realm to personal successes.

Coleman is often the first person Cavanaugh goes to when she needs advice or someone to talk things through with. When she was recently elected to the Nebraska Law Review Executive Board, Coleman was the first person she texted. She also called Coleman right away when her first semester grades came out.

“It’s so great because, first of all, she always celebrates my accomplishments with me,” Cavanaugh said. “But then she immediately asks what I’m going to do to celebrate.” 

While Coleman has been a great help to Cavanaugh in navigating academic tasks such as cover letter and resume writing, on-campus interviews and exam preparation, she has also advised Cavanaugh on how to keep a healthy perspective and set boundaries. 

"Those boundaries are critical, and a lot of students don't make them because you're wanting to get validation that you're doing well, but you also need to have that space to just be yourself," Coleman said.

Taking from her own experience at Nebraska Law, Coleman hoped to encourage Cavanaugh to carve out sufficient breaks from school and make meaningful connections. Not only would these practices enrich Cavanaugh’s experience in law school, Coleman said, but they would also help her be more effective in her future career. 

“You're so used to comparing yourself to the rest of your classmates that to hear someone from the professional sphere who has also been exactly where I have been is so helpful,” Cavanaugh said.

The pair have also bonded over their shared experience of being out-of-state students. Coleman said she enjoys helping students navigate the potential culture shock of moving to Nebraska, something Cavanaugh experienced after having lived in Chicago.  

"That's part of why I was immediately drawn to the mentor program," Cavanaugh said. "I didn't really know what the whole first year looked like, so having Ciara was immensely helpful."

Although Coleman acts as the mentor in the partnership, she said she’s learned a great deal from Cavanaugh.  

“Seeing Murphy's drive to help the people around her in law school and how she approaches those situations was something I took away from her in our discussions,” Coleman said. “It really helped me learn how I can help other people in a more constructive way.” 

Coleman is currently based in Lowell, Arkansas, but both her and Cavanaugh continue to communicate often. Both Coleman and Cavanaugh said they see no end in sight to their mentorship. Coleman said it’s especially important to continue the relationship through the first five years after law school, where they will encounter unique challenges. 

“I wish I had had a mentor during that time, and particularly a female mentor,” Coleman said. “Having another female attorney to be able to help you navigate some of the ins and outs of firm life and how to best position yourself is absolutely critical.”