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The Ins and Outs of Legal Internships

published August 28, 2012

By Harrison Barnes, CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 29 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Reasons to get a legal internship
Classroom studies are important within any division of learning or higher education; however, there are others forms of education that are just as important. Internships, externships, clerkships, and clinics are essential to legal careers. These forms of outside education help a student put together what is learned in the classroom and then execute it in the real world. They also help a student gain learned skills: knowledge that can not be taught in a classroom. However, those that intern or have interned seem to think the contrary. Many current law students feel that most internships are just a form of “free labor”. While this maybe the case, the necessity of the internship still reigns supreme in the legal field.

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The biggest benefit in obtaining a legal internship is the in office experience that will help you with your future successes in the legal sector. Experience is crucial to success; a lot of what you learn in an internship program you will not learn in the classroom. Other than the experience, there are several other reasons to intern:
 
  • Practical experience over theory: In the classroom, the viewing glass that you unconsciously use is theoretical. “In theory, given a certain situation, X, Y, or Z can happen.” This is the typical thought process used. However, when interning, these situations you are dealing with real legal issues and clients.. In order to handle these legal situations, you develop a level of practicality that you bring back into your studies.
  • Mistakes will not kill you: Make a mistake at a firm and you can kiss your job goodbye. Although this may seem like an exaggeration, the paranoia level in a law firm is far greater as a lawyer. As an intern, you are a student of the workplace. You are allowed to make mistakes now so that you will not make these same mistakes when it matters.
  • Mentorship: Moving ahead in the legal field has more to do with who you know than how good you are—your mettle is proven after the fact. Who you intern for can make or break your legal career. It is important to seek out mentors that are willing to help you get ahead. When you are finished working for them, they will provide great references for your future employers. Mentors are a wealth of information and knowledge. Learn from your mentors: learn from their past experience, mistakes, successes, and dreams. It can help you decide the path you want to take. Lastly, keep in touch with your mentors. As previously stated, they are a resource, and who knows what the future may bring.
  • A new perspective: Your approach towards law will shift. During your first year, you viewed law as something you had to master or learn. By gaining internship experience, you can now approach your school work in relation to your internship. Your perspective is broader.

Another benefit to interning is that the majority of legal internships are usually paid. The leaders of intern programs understand the importance of time; they have already run their course. If money is the issue, do not worry as there are ways to make money and gain experience. However, it would be erroneous to say that all internships are paid. There are some instances where working for a certain organization may not make you a penny. The United States Department of Justice hires over 1,800 volunteer law interns per year. What is the benefit of having a non-paid internship? Experience; working for the United States is priceless and looks amazing on your resume.

And when choosing an internship, that is what matters the most. Researching multiple internship programs will help you find one that fits your needs. There are many resources that can help: the internet, your counseling center/website, publications, etc. There is always an excessive need for interns. Networking with the staff and professors at your school can also be extremely beneficial to your search. Use your resources.

What does an intern do? Intern responsibilities vary depending on the organization they are with. Some require interns to stay current with legal news, participate in dispute resolution activities, prepare legal documents with the help of an assigned attorney, and legal research. You may also have to partake in some of the mundane day-to-day activities that align with clerical work: office management, answering phones, filing papers, calendar arrangement, etc. Although as an intern you may have to do grudge work, it is minuet in comparison to the other types of work you will have to do.

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Finding an internship is literally a click away. A simple Google search can help you find the perfect internship. A lot of students do their own research when they decide to intern; and most of the time, they apply to internship programs that are well known by the schools they attend.

Your school should be your search engine: if they have a career counseling center, make an appointment. It is better to seek the right help rather than going off on your own. Career counselors are a free service. Use them. Utilize the alumni database as well; schools host a variety of alumnus networking events so that their students can meet and connect professionally. It is to your benefit to attend as many events as possible.

Finding an internship should become a priority once you have completed your first year of law school. By researching and networking to find the internship that is the best fit for you and your career goals, you will have set yourself up for a successful career. A good percent of the time, internships can lead to a job offer after you graduate and pass the bar. Your work ethic while interning will determine if this offer ever comes. However, say that you were the best employee/intern the organization has ever seen and you still do not receive a job offer…do not fret. There is still a benefit to slaving away for this organization: a recommendation letter.

Recommendation letters are the just as important as the internship. On your resume, an internship says that you have experience. A recommendation letter gives testament to the kind of worker you are. If you were great, then the praise is on the paper and it opens doors that you probably could not have opened if you did not intern. Interning is one of the most important decisions you can make. Below are links to some potential internship opportunities. Hopefully you find the one that fits you the best.
 
Good Luck!

Internship Search Engines:

LawCrossing
 
  • https://www.lawcrossing.com/#

Internship Opportunities:

1. The United States Department of Justice
 
  • http://www.justice.gov/careers/legal/volunteer-intern.html

2. Dream Careers: Global Internship Program
 
  • http://www.summerinternships.com/legal-internships/

3. United Nations: Office of Legal Affairs
 
  • http://untreaty.un.org/ola/employ.aspx

4. Microsoft
 
  • http://careers.microsoft.com/careers/en/us/business-legal-internships.aspx

5. MetLife
 
  • https://www.metlife.com/careers/development-programs/students/legal-internships.html

6. NBC Universal
 
  • http://www.nbcunicareers.com/internships/Legal%20Posting.pdf

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Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

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