Rhonda Martinez* Many students worry about how they are going to spend their time at a law firm as interns. They want to impress employers and prepare for recruiting. Getting a good job is the main point of education so you should make sure that employers will see you as a good candidate. Although your grades are important for getting the job of your dreams, you certainly need more than just good grades to impress employers.
An internship allows you to gain some experience and to use your knowledge in practice.
If you have at least some work experience, this factor will make you much more appealing for law firms so it’s important to know how you can use your internship most effectively. There is no universal scenario that all law students should follow. In contrast, there are many options available and you should choose them depending on your career goals.
Before you start your internship at a law firm, you should prepare and make sure that you can actually make a meaningful contribution. For example, you may do some research and draft memos, motions, or orders under an attorney’s supervision.
Here are some proven tips that will help you make the most of your internship.
1.Do Your Research
All law firms have their specific practice areas and various partners. We recommend that you do some research and figure out what partner is in charge of each team, as well as what teams demonstrate the best results and get the best feedback.
Quite often, interns get disappointed in the chosen team and realize that they should make a different choice. You don’t want to feel frustrated when working with some partners so we recommend that you talk to HR and make it clear where exactly you want to work.
Unfortunately, HR may also assign you to a different team, but you should at least try to choose the best opportunity for yourself.
2. Remember That Your Goals are to Learn and to Help
Not only should you learn more, but you should also make your contribution and be actually useful. However, this aspect might be tricky if you’re an undergraduate intern.
In this case, law firms may not have much work for you because you don’t have the necessary credentials yet. Even though your capabilities are limited, ask to attend as many events as you can, appreciate the given opportunity, and don’t look bored or annoyed.
If you’re a 2L or 3L intern, the chances are that you’ve already completed requisite courses that enable you to work on legal tasks. In this case, it’s important to evaluate yourself realistically.
Even if you think that you’re ready for a trial, your supervisor may recommend that you do more research. Remember that there are no unnecessary or too simple tasks. You’re there to learn and every lawyer needs to learn a lot at the beginning of their career.
If you’re sure that you’re being mistreated and your work doesn’t allow you to learn anything useful, you can talk to your supervisor and ask if there’s anything more specific you could help with. If you’re denied your requests again and again, don’t stress out and don’t act emotionally. Talk to another member of the firm or your law school supervisor and ask for advice.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Once again, your main goal is to learn. The first legal internship should help you grow as a professional. Therefore, when you get an assignment, you must make sure that you clearly understand what the firm expects of you. Make sure to clarify timing expectations or deadlines so that you won’t be late in completing your task.
If you’re not sure of exactly what you need to do or when the task must be completed, don’t hesitate to ask questions.
If you stay well-organized, you may even complete your task early. In this case, you will have some spare time so you’ll be able to ask your supervisor for more assignments or to dedicate some time to building your network.
4. Don’t Forget that Social Events Are Also Part of your Internship
An internship is more than just completing assignments and doing research. Various office events and lunches are also an opportunity to learn office culture and to build good relationships with staff and other attorneys. However, don’t forget that you’re still an intern and stick with the appropriate dress code.
Don’t talk to your colleagues as if they were your roommates, don’t curse and don’t drink too much alcohol. Quite often, attorneys watch interns closely during social events to better understand their personality so make sure that you won’t disappoint them.
4. Work as Hard as You Can
Think of your internship as a recruitment process that might last several weeks. First of all, you should always come on time. Moreover, we recommend that you be present in the office even before the most punctual member of your team comes.
This way, you’ll be able to quickly catch up on any developments in the cases you’re currently working on.
Not only should you come early, but you should also work till late. First, it will help you present yourself as a hardworking individual. Secondly, it will give you an opportunity to get the most valuable and interesting work among interns.
Quite often, partners assign work after they complete their daily tasks and you should be there to help.
If you’ve been asked to work on Sunday, don’t hesitate to do it. It’s just an integral part of life in a corporate law firm. Besides, learning and getting experience is exactly why you’re there so never miss out on an opportunity to work, no matter when and how long.
Your internship may not be easy but it will certainly help you prepare for your job. It will also help you learn lots of useful information and become a more appealing candidate when looking for an actual job. We recommend that you follow our simple tips so that you can use your internship most effectively.
Rhonda Martinez is Associate Professor of Law and writer at LegitWritingServices, a blog that helps law students in academia. She is keen on writing articles related to criminal law, employment law and business law.