If you are a law student, landing a legal internship can be exciting. You may be looking forward to escaping the stress of classes, exams, and the search for job opportunities. But once you start your dream internship, the hard work is just beginning.
Depending on your experiences before law school, a legal internship may be your first real work experience in practicing law. You also likely want to make the best impression possible, whether to secure a position after graduation or leave with a glowing letter of recommendation.
You will get the most out of the experience and make the best impression if you approach the internship with intentionality. Some of the tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your legal internship include the following:
1. Show enthusiasm.
For the most part, legal interns are not expected to know the intricacies of every single law when they first start. However, they can make up for this fact by showing their enthusiasm and motivation to learn.
Ask to be included in meetings and workshops as much as possible so you can pick up new skills, ultimately making you more helpful in the workplace. Avoid spending any of your time idle. If you finish an assignment early, ask for additional work or read about relevant cases. Your passion for the work will shine through and make an excellent impression. Moreover, enthusiasm tends to be contagious, so you may motivate fellow interns and even supervisors to learn more.
2. Respect everyone’s time.
In the legal world, as well as the larger professional world, time is precious. You can show that you respect your supervisors’ time by making sure you submit all assignments before the deadline and that the quality of your work exceeds standards—this will translate to less of their time spent fixing any mistakes.
If you know you will need help with an assignment, ask for it early on to make sure you can deliver the assignment according to schedule. Supervisors will pay close attention to how you spend your time and take note of the interns who show up a bit early and stay a bit late to make sure everything gets done. Spending a little extra time at the job demonstrates your dedication.
3. Find mentors.
One of the most important experiences for a legal intern is a mentorship. Sometimes, a person will be assigned to you to serve as a mentor, but you should feel free to talk to any other people you find inspiring. Ideally, your mentor should have similar values and goals. In addition to providing advice when you find yourself in a difficult situation, mentors can introduce you to people and experiences that allow you to explore your interests.
4. Be professional.
For some people, the legal internship will be their first professional experience. Even people who have worked elsewhere may find differences in legal interning. In either case, paying attention to how things are done in the office is extremely important, which includes dressing appropriately.
Further, be sure to exercise common sense when it comes to social media. If you want to connect online with people at the office, consider keeping your personal accounts separate and making a social media account just for work friends. You should also use good judgment when participating in social work events. These events are meant for networking, and people pay closer attention to your behavior than you think.
5. Recognize your limitations.
The jobs assigned to a legal intern may sometimes seem menial, but everyone has to pay their dues. Taking on a task like making copies—with a smile—will always be appreciated.
Eventually, supervisors will begin entrusting you with more interesting tasks. When this happens, be sure to ask for help or clarification if you need it. No one will expect you to know everything. If you attempt to do something you’re unsure about and complete it incorrectly, that means someone else will need to pick up the slack—and you will likely not be asked to help with that task again. Recognizing your limitations is a key skill to have, and one that your supervisor will not overlook.
6. Collaborate well.
Law school can be a very competitive environment. For this reason, many legal interns feel like they need to compete with other interns in the office. However, competitiveness does not pay off—everyone should be on the same team.
Part of completing an internship successfully is learning how to collaborate. You and your fellow interns will bring different backgrounds and experiences to the table, so it is important to divide work in a way that makes sense. You should also make it a point to learn from your fellow interns. Your ability to collaborate effectively will speak to your ability to succeed in a professional environment.