At the end of their first year of law school, most students try to find a summer internship to gain valuable experience and begin making connections in the field. Here’s some info on how to find internships, what to expect and how to make the most of the experience.
Why Do a Summer Internship?
After a long, tough year as a 1L, you might be tempted to take the summer off to work on your tan, or find a paying job to offset expenses. Here’s why it’s a better idea to land an internship and work hard all summer:
- You’ll get experience working in a real law office.
- You’ll be better situated to get a paying gig at the end of your second year.
- You’ll make contacts that will come in handy later: attorneys, paralegals and judges.
- A summer internship will strengthen your resume.
How to Find an Internship
In a tough economy, many firms have stopped hiring 1L summer interns. You can still find opportunities, however; you just have to look a little harder.
- Find some small firm with partners who are alumni of your law school.
- Focus on other skills you possess that will help the firm: languages, knowledge in the field, experience in other arenas that pertain to the firm. For instance, if you speak Spanish and worked for a non-profit that assists Spanish-speaking immigrants, you’ll be valuable to a firm specializing in immigration law.
- Don’t overlook non-profits or public interest groups. They’re often underfunded and happy to have your help.
What to Expect in a Summer Internship
You’ll be working for free, so make sure that you’re getting something out of the deal. During your interview, ask the following questions:
- What kind of work will you be doing? Making copies and bringing coffee to the partners doesn’t give you much experience.
- Who will be your direct supervisor? Ideally, it’s not a brand new associate, but rather a seasoned attorney.
- What can you expect to learn? The firm should have some goals set for its interns.
- What does the firm expect from you? Get a clear idea of the hours involved, and the amount of work expected.
Turn an Internship into Future Job Opportunities
In addition to the experience you’ll gain over the summer, you may be able to turn your internship into a paid position later; or make contacts that will give you valuable recommendations. Here’s how:
- Show up on time (or early) every day.
- Dress professionally. Look the part, and you’ll appear invested.
- Spend your time in the office working. No Facebook, personal email or playing games online.
- Consider social events an opportunity to network. Avoid drinking too much at all costs and remember that you’re being watched by both the partners of your firm, and others in the field.
- Form professional relationships. Don’t be difficult to work with—instead, be the person that the firm’s attorneys want to inspire and teach.