For law students, a summer legal internship is an invaluable experience. Through these opportunities, you amass a great deal of hands-on knowledge and make important connections. Summer internships give you the opportunity to apply what you have learned in the classroom in a meaningful way and get real-time feedback.
In addition, internships are a great way to explore a specific area of law that interests you. They can open doors for jobs following graduation. While these experiences are extremely important to the development of a sharp legal mind, it is also not always clear how you can land your dream internship.
You should start thinking about what you may want to do during the summer when you first begin law school. Your first year will be busy, and many government and public interest jobs have application deadlines as early as January. At the same time, many smaller firms will not start looking for interns until the late spring, so it is never too late.
However, having an idea of what you would like to do is the first step toward finding the right opportunity. Some tips to keep in mind when it comes to finding the perfect legal internship include:
1. Use the internet to look for positions.
A Google search is a fine way to start looking for a summer internship. However, you should dive a bit deeper into the internet as your search. Sources like Lawyers Weekly and Indeed.com are great ways to look for potential jobs. Even Craigslist can point to interesting opportunities.
The point is to be varied in your approach. If you search just one or two websites, you will likely find only limited opportunities. Continue searching and keeping track of what you find to figure out the opportunities you might want to pursue.
Also, be sure to use resources specific to your interests. For example, PSJD.org is a great website for finding public interest positions. State agencies tend to list opportunities directly on their own websites, and USAJobs will have some federal internships listed.
2. Be proactive with potential employers.
You do not need to wait until a summer internship job is posted to ask for one. If you know roughly what you would like to do, you can contact attorneys, firms, and legal organizations directly to let them know your interest.
Keep a running document on this contact and follow up as you would with a normal job posting. You can use websites like LinkedIn and Martindale to help in direct contact or to find the best firms to email about potential internships.
That being said, avoid contacting dozens and dozens of employers. Focus on a small group of organizations and explain clearly your reasons for wanting to get involved. Even if you do not end up with an internship, this is a great way to make connections that could help you down the line.
3. Continue to build your network.
Research has shown that the vast majority of Americans get a job through someone they know. While in law school, creating a network is crucial and doing so could open up some summer internship opportunities. Let your advisors and instructors know what kind of opportunities you are looking for and they can help you find something.
You may just find that these individuals already have a great job in mind. If the position is not exactly what you were thinking, keep an open mind and ask why you think you would be a great fit. These individuals often have some insight that you lack and can point you toward opportunities you had not even considered.
4. Lean on the career services office.
Your school is there to help you find opportunities to further your education. The career services office can do a lot in terms of finding you the right opportunity. Talk to the advisors there and let them know what you are thinking. Career services is also a great place to go over resumes and cover letters prior to sending them out, as well as to schedule mock interviews.
Consider contacting the career services office at a different law school if you are looking for summer internship opportunities in another part of the country, such as your hometown. The two career services offices can communicate and the should be able to help you identify opportunities or at least put you in touch with key contacts.
5. Keep a flexible and open mind.
Try to be flexible about when searching for a summer internship. For example, if you own a car, you can look for positions outside of large metropolitan areas.
You may also want to consider taking an unpaid position and then balancing it with paid work. You may be able to get work-study funding for some positions or receive a third-party grant to support your position.
Be sure to speak with the career services office about these options. When you are flexible about location and pay, you can open yourself up to a range of opportunities and potentially find that perfect fit.