A legal internship is like a rite of passage for many law students. It is a hot commodity, and law students would often fight over the best internship programs. They all want to best one another in hopes to land an offer from these prestigious law firms. Although a law school prepares you for the job, practical training is largely left for internship programs to teach you. Many would-be lawyers contribute their summers to interning for a government office, law firm, and advocacy groups. The aim is to gain as many legal experiences as possible.
It doesn’t matter where you intern, although a well-known law firm with high-profile cases is always the target. The most important thing is to choose a law firm that specializes in the area of law that you want to study. That includes, among others, corporate, tax, criminal, litigation, environment, intellectual property rights, civil rights, and entertainment.
Aside from learning case management and research, the one thing you have to focus on when it comes to your legal internship is networking. You shouldn’t just spend time in the office, but you should also go out for dinner with your colleagues and bosses. Learn how to get yourself out there. Not only will you learn a lot from their off-the-record stories, but you will also get a glimpse of the world you will join in the next few years.
Some law firms actually let third-year law students handle cases. If you’ve ever watched How to Get Away With Murder, that’s a good insight into how law students intern in law firms. They do in-depth research of cases and they often stand as assistant counsels to the lawyers. What are the kinds of cases you can handle as an intern? You’ll most likely be assigned to simpler cases, but make sure to make the most out of it.
The fact that you can help people with your legal skills is another attraction point of internships. All over the world, victims of road accidents don’t usually hire lawyers and settle with those who wronged them for a small amount of money. Many think it’s a hassle to go to court and demand more than what is being offered to them. As an intern, you can take tasks from an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer who can demand more compensation for road accident victims.
Even when you graduate, you won’t handle cases immediately. At best, you will be assigned to write case reports, drafts, motions, and other things. Even if you’re tasked to do a menial job in the law firm, pour your heart into it. Don’t be lazy and sloppy with your work. Submit only your work when you know it’s the best that you can do with the time you have to research and investigate. Take pride in what you do, whether it’s writing a memo or running errands in the municipal courts.
You will have a better understanding of your work as a lawyer when you handle pro bono cases. These are cases that lawyers handle for free. You are required to handle at least 50 hours’ worth of pro bono cases every year. Here, you will meet all sorts of clients—from those who have been wronged by conglomerates and to those who fall victim to environmental hazards. Big-shot lawyers would usually let interns handle pro bono cases. You will learn a lot about the good that your profession can do for other people.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Yes, even stupid questions. Ask as many questions as you can about all sorts of topics. Find a mentor who will guide you even after the internship program is over. The best way to learn is to ask. If you do not ask, no one will offer the answers you need.
You will gain a lot of knowledge through the assigned tasks, but you will better maximize the relationships you forged by asking more questions. Your colleagues and mentors will remember you when you show your love for learning and deep commitment to the field. This is going to carry over until your evaluation.
The success of your legal internship depends on you. How committed are you to learn as much as you can from it? Did you put yourself out there? Did you volunteer? When all is said and done, it is not the legal firms who need your skills. It is you who needs to maximize every second you spend in that office.