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How to Get a Legal Internship - Law Internship Tips & 11 Unique Ways to Succeed
What type of legal internship would be your first choice?
There are many ways to find exciting legal internships that may eventually lead to future career opportunities. Internships used to be readily available, but with soaring competiveness due to the economy, you need to make yourself stand out and you need to be resourceful.
Read on for some creative ways on how to find a legal internship or law firm internship that will help build your resume and garner you valuable legal experience. This guide is especially meant for law students or paralegals looking to find their perfect law internship.
Don't simply rely on your college or university.
Many students simply rely on their university to provide them with a list of firms or organizations that directly coordinate with the school. What happens if all your classmates did this? You might not get a great opportunity and you could be missing out. While utilizing this resource is a great place to start, you may have to (and probably should) get innovative. For example, if you notice an organization on your school's website, contact them directly with your resume and a cover letter. Some colleges actually submit resumes and they all look/sound the same. Be unique, stand out, and show them that you truly want this opportunity.
Ask other lawyers.
In my opinion, this is probably the best way to land an awesome internship. Everyone knows a lawyer and lawyers love to name-drop and help people. While you may not want to intern directly under a close friend or family member, they should be able to heartily recommend you to other attorneys or organizations that specialize in the field you're interested in. In addition, they may also be willing to let you job shadow them (accompany them to court for a few cases or sit in on client interviews), which can lead to more opportunities.
Internship Resources for Law Students
Ask law professors.
Think you don't know any lawyers well-enough to ask? Well, your law professors are lawyers! If you're doing well in a professor's class and you approach them and ask if they know any opportunities or contacts, of course they're going to help you. This is especially helpful as law professors who are experts in your desired area of practice will surely have contacts and opportunities for you to look into.
Ask your parents, family members, or friends.
It doesn't matter if they're lawyers, your family and friends can still help you get legal internships! How? Well, if they work for a large company, they should be able to find out if there are any legal related internships available. For example, an uncle may work in a corporation's marketing department and could check with legal to see if they would accept an intern in their legal department.
Browse local job boards for internships. They're hard to find, but in certain areas, you may be able to find a few.
Cold call (actually, write).
Have a particular area of interest? There may not be any available legal internships advertised, but that doesn't mean they're not available. Start looking at various law firm websites that specialize in an area that you're interested in and send over a targeted cover letter and your resume.
Top Books - How to Write A Compelling Legal Resume
Cover letters and resumes are key.
Polish, polish, polish. Watch out for grammatical errors and typos. Treat your internship request as though you were applying for a high-paying professional job. Have others review your work to catch any errors that your eyes may have missed.
- In your cover letter, be enthusiastic. Let's face it, there are a lot of students who have internship requirements and will apply everywhere just to land an internship to satisfy a graduation requirement. Stand out - be enthusiastic. Give examples why you'd love to intern there. Give specific reasons as to why you are interested in this area of law. This will make you more memorable when the decisions process occurs.
- On the resume, make your case. Don't use the same resume for every opportunity you apply for. List all the experience of previous jobs (legal or non-legal) and frame the experience to prove that you'll be able to succeed in this internship position. For example, if you worked as a bank-teller, frame your experience to the effect of: Followed bank transactions according to bank and federal procedures.
Be professional and be prepared.
The legal professional prides itself on professionalism, and you should too. Before anyone takes you on as an intern, they need to know that you won't waste their time or even embarrass them in front of clients. Here are some basic tips to show your potential intern coordinator that you are serious and will be an asset:
- Dress to impress. Wear a suit. This applies to men and women. If you don't have a suit, then buy one, you'll need one eventually.
For men: This is a fantastic article on choosing a suit, written by a professional tailor. Men's Legal Interview Wardrobe Advice You'll want a suit, preferably navy or charcoal, a solid dress shirt and a conservative tie (solid color or striped - no novelty ties, ever!)
For ladies: Wear a full, conservative suit; skirt or pants. Choose a color such as charcoal, gray (not too light), or navy. Choose a solid colored blouse. Wear closed toe/closed heal shoes and make sure they coordinate well with the suit. Stilettos may look great, but make sure you can handle walking in them up and down stairs and around the law office, as they may choose to give you a tour. (I once got caught wearing stilettos into what turned into a 1 hour tour of the U.S. Capitol building, do not make my mistake!)
- Be conscious of good manners. Interviews can sometimes be stressful, which may make you forget about your manners, which usually come naturally. Never forget to say "thank you" and "I appreciate your time", even if you have to consciously remind yourself to do so. Send follow up thank-you notes and please, be sincere.
- Practice interview questions. You will be asked questions at your interview other than "why do you want this internship?" or "what qualifies you?". Practice your answers to questions such as "what is the most difficult experience you've ever had in the workplace?", "what area of law are you most interested in?", etc.
- Bring your resume to the interview. Bring 5 copies, but don't let them see how many you've brought. Tuck them in a portfolio. Why 5? One is for you to reference as you discuss your resume and the other four are emergency copies in case the people interviewing you don't have a copy. It's doubtful that four people will interview you for an internship, however you never know. Even better, find out who is interviewing beforehand.
Be a private person.
You should be very aware of what happens when someone Google's your name. Do it now and see what comes up. Can they view your facebook profile? Other social network sites? No one is going to want an intern at their law office who has pictures posted of a wild night out, or someone who constantly tweets immature remarks.
Keep your grades up.
The law profession is competitive. By remaining at the top of your class, you immediately display to potential employers and internship opportunities that you are competitive, driven and organized enough to score great grades. Brag about your class ranking if it's high enough; it's impressive.
Build your resume.
If you don't have any work experience (even non-legal helps), then you absolutely must build your resume. How else will law firms and organizations be able to accurately judge that you'd be professional and competent while interning? Some ways to build your resume for a legal internship:
- Join committees or other causes that are important to you: Lots of non-profits have committees that specialize in public policy. This may mean that you're simply writing letters to the editor, but it looks great on a resume and at the end of the day, you'll be satisfied that you gave some of your time to further a cause that is important to you.
- Volunteer with a non-profit legal aid clinic. Their budgets are typically small and they need volunteers. You don't need to commit to being an intern at first, just ask if you can come in a few hours a week.