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Important Tips for Securing and Excelling in Internship Opportunities During Law School

Author : Shashwat Srivastava

Updated On : September 4, 2023


Reader's Digest: Securing top-notch internships during law school can be a game-changer for your legal career. Start early, network like your future depends on it (it might!), tailor your applications, and don't forget to brush up on your research and writing skills. These small steps can lead to big opportunities in the legal world.

Welcome, aspiring legal eagles! If you’re reading this article, you’re likely a law student hunting for that perfect internship. Or maybe you’ve already landed one and are looking for tips to make the most of it.

Either way, you're in the right place. Internships during law school are more than just a box to tick; they’re opportunities to kickstart your legal career, build a network, and apply your classroom knowledge in a real-world setting.

So let's dive into how you can secure and excel in these essential stepping stones.

  Key Contents:

  • Importance of Internships: Discusses the benefits of internships, such as skill development, networking, and real-world application of theory.
  • Preliminary Steps: Offers guidance on how to research law firms, craft effective resumes and cover letters, and prepare for interviews.
  • Securing an Internship: Tips on networking, utilizing school resources, and finding opportunities online to secure that dream internship.
  • Excelling in Your Internship: Advice on maintaining professionalism, effective communication, proactive engagement, and adaptability to make a lasting impression.
  • Navigating Remote Internships: Best practices for excelling in remote or online internships.
  • Post-Internship Tips: Emphasizes the importance of maintaining connections and seeking references after your internship ends.
  • Case Studies: Real-life examples of individuals who successfully secured and excelled in their internships.

 Importance of Internships in Legal Education 

When you're slogging through law textbooks and case studies, you might wonder when you'll actually get to practice what you're learning.

Well, internships are your golden ticket. They offer you a vital hands-on experience that complements your academic learning.

Below, let's break down why internships are the real MVPs in your legal education.

Skill Development

  • Legal Research: One thing you’ll be doing a lot as a law student and later as a legal professional is research. Internships offer a unique setting where you can polish this skill. You'll learn how to sift through volumes of information to find exactly what you need, which can make your academic research seem like a breeze.

  • Legal Drafting: Mastering the art of legal writing is crucial, and an internship is a perfect place to do it. You’ll get to draft real documents, like contracts or pleadings, under the supervision of experienced professionals.

  • Client Interaction: Textbooks don't teach you how to interact with clients, but internships do. Understanding the client's perspective is vital in legal practice, and learning this early on can make you a better advocate in the future.

  • Courtroom Etiquette: If your internship allows you to accompany lawyers to court, pay attention! The courtroom has its own set of unspoken rules and formalities that, once mastered, can give you a significant edge in your future career.

Networking Opportunities

  • Building Professional Relationships: You’ll be working alongside legal professionals, paralegals, and other interns. These individuals can become important contacts for your future career.

  • Mentorship: Experienced lawyers at your internship can offer insights and advice that you won't find in textbooks. Many are open to mentorship relationships that continue beyond the internship.

  • Job Opportunities: Performing well in an internship can often lead to job offers. Employers are more likely to hire someone they’ve already trained and are happy with, so an internship can be a prolonged job interview in some ways.

  • Professional Endorsements: When you impress people in a professional setting, they’re more likely to endorse you in the future, whether that's through a LinkedIn recommendation, a reference letter, or word-of-mouth.

Application of Theoretical Knowledge

  • Understanding the Law in Action: Academic theories can sometimes feel abstract and hard to connect to real-life situations. Internships allow you to apply your theoretical understanding in a real-world context.

  • Legal Procedures and Protocols: Reading about how a motion is filed is entirely different from actually filing one. You get to witness and partake in these standard legal procedures during your internship.

  • Case Strategy: Watching how senior lawyers plan and strategize a case can offer invaluable insights and help you understand the practical implications of legal theories.

 Preliminary Steps: Preparation and Research 

How to Research Law Firms and Organizations

Before you hit "send" on that job application, you'll want to make sure the place you're applying to fits your career trajectory.

  • Know Your Interests: Figure out your areas of interest first—be it criminal law, corporate law, or public interest law.
  • Online Resources: Websites like Glassdoor, Vault, and LinkedIn can give you a good idea about the firm's culture, areas of practice, and even employee reviews.
  • Consult the Alumni Network: Alumni can provide insider perspectives that you won't find anywhere else. They've been where you are and can guide you better.
  • Talk to Professors: Professors are wells of knowledge and usually have extensive networks. They can point you to organizations that align with your career goals.
  • Attend Career Fairs: These events often have representatives from various law firms and can be a great way to gather information first-hand.
  • Ask for Recommendations: Don't be afraid to ask for suggestions from people who are already in the legal field.

Crafting an Effective Resume and Cover Letter

In the legal world, the details matter a lot, and this starts with your resume and cover letter.

  • Tailored Resumes: Make sure your resume isn't a generic one-size-fits-all document. Tailor it to highlight any legal experience, moot courts, legal writing, or relevant coursework.
  • Be Specific: Use specific numbers or examples to demonstrate your achievements. For example, "Conducted research that was utilized in a case that won a $1M settlement."
  • Skills Section: Highlight skills like "Legal Research," "Client Interviews," or "Contract Drafting" in a dedicated section.
  • Cover Letter Matters: Your cover letter should complement, not duplicate, your resume. Use it to explain why you’re interested in that specific area of law and why you’d be a great fit for the firm.
  • Show Your Knowledge: Mention any recent cases the firm has won or initiatives they have led that interest you. This shows you've done your homework.

Preparing for Interviews

Getting an interview invite is great, but the real work starts now.

  • Mock Interviews: Practice makes perfect. Try mock interviews with friends, family, or career services at your school.
  • Know Your Resume: Be prepared to elaborate on everything you've written on your resume. If you put it there, they can ask you about it.
  • Legal Theories: Be ready to discuss basic legal theories relevant to the job you’re applying for. This shows you not only have the skills but also the intellect.
  • Current Events: Knowing about recent landmark judgments or legal news can provide excellent talking points during the interview.
  • Ask Questions: Remember, an interview is a two-way street. Come prepared with questions about the firm's culture, growth opportunities, and expectations from interns.

How to Secure an Internship: Best Practices


  • Why It's Crucial: You're more likely to land an internship through a personal connection than simply sending your resume into the abyss of a company’s online portal.
  • Law-Related Events: Attend seminars, workshops, and conferences to meet industry professionals and other students who can share tips or opportunities.
    • Tip: Don't just collect business cards; follow up with a thoughtful message.
  • LinkedIn: A well-maintained LinkedIn profile can act as an interactive resume.
    • Tip: Send personalized connection requests, join law-related groups, and engage in discussions to make your presence felt.
  • Alumni and Professors: Never underestimate the power of a warm introduction.
    • Tip: Professors often have industry connections, and alumni who are working where you want to intern can offer application tips or even referrals.

Utilizing School Resources

  • Career Services: Your law school likely has a career services center specifically designed to help you find internships and jobs.
    • Tip: Schedule regular check-ins and take any resume-building or interview workshops they offer.
  • On-Campus Recruitment: Firms often visit campuses looking for potential interns.
    • Tip: Attend these events well-prepared, with resumes in hand and a clear understanding of what each firm does.

Online Job Portals and Websites

  • General Job Portals: Websites like Indeed and Glassdoor allow you to filter job postings to show only legal internships.
    • Tip: Use targeted keywords like "legal intern," "law clerk," or "summer associate" for more specific results.
  • Law-Specific Sites: Websites like LawJobs or the American Bar Association have sections specifically dedicated to internships and clerkships.
    • Tip: Regularly checking these specialized sites can give you an edge, as they often list positions that aren’t as widely advertised.

Excelling in Your Internship: How to Make a Lasting Impression

Professionalism is Key

  • Dress Code: Always dress the part. Your attire should match or exceed the office dress code.
    • Tip: When in doubt, it's better to be overdressed than underdressed.
  • Punctuality: Always be on time, or better yet, be early. It shows you’re eager and respectful of others’ time.
  • Demeanor: Maintain a respectful and professional attitude at all times.
    • Tip: Remember, you’re representing both yourself and your law school.

Effective Communication

  • Verbal Communication: When explaining points, be concise yet thorough. Lawyers value the ability to convey complex ideas simply.
  • Written Communication: Whether it's an email or a legal document, ensure your writing is clear, grammatically correct, and free of jargon unless absolutely necessary.
    • Tip: Proofread everything at least twice.

Proactive Engagement

  • Seek Out Tasks: Don’t wait to be assigned work. If you have free time, ask for additional responsibilities.
    • Tip: This shows you’re eager to learn and contribute, which leaves a positive impression.
  • Show Initiative: If you see something that needs doing or an area where you can contribute, speak up.
    • Tip: Your proactiveness could solve a problem before others even recognize it exists.

Conflict Resolution and Adaptability

  • Conflict Management: Workplace conflicts are inevitable. Handle them professionally, respectfully, and seek a resolution.
    • Tip: Listening is often more valuable than speaking when resolving conflicts.
  • Adaptability: Different supervisors may have different working styles; adapt to them.
    • Tip: Being flexible and accommodating will mark you as someone who can work well in diverse conditions.

Navigating Remote Internships

In the era of Zoom meetings and Slack channels, remote internships are more common than ever, especially in the legal field. But don't let the comforts of home make you lax; professionalism is just as crucial in a virtual setting.

Set Up a Dedicated Workspace

  • Choose a quiet, clutter-free space to work from.
  • Make sure you have all the essentials like a stable internet connection, a laptop or computer, and any required legal reference materials.

Stay Organized

  • Keep your digital files and documents well-organized.
  • Use digital tools like Google Calendar or project management software like Asana to track deadlines and tasks.

Master Video Conference Etiquette

  • Always be on time for virtual meetings.
  • Dress appropriately, at least from the waist up.
  • Mute your microphone when not speaking to minimize background noise.

Remember, you're as much a part of the team as anyone working in the office. Make your presence felt, engage in virtual team activities, and be proactive in your communications.

Post-Internship: Maintaining Connections and Seeking References

The end of your internship is not the end of your professional relationship with the firm or the people you've worked with.

Send Thank-You Notes

  • A personalized email or a handwritten note can leave a lasting impression.
  • Mention specific experiences or learnings that made the internship valuable for you.

Maintain Professional Relationships

  • Connect with your supervisors and colleagues on LinkedIn.
  • Periodically check-in, perhaps through an email or LinkedIn message, to keep the relationship warm.

Ask for References or Recommendations

  • If you’ve made a positive impression, supervisors are generally happy to provide references.
  • Be specific about what you’d like the reference to focus on (skills, projects, responsibilities).

Case Studies

  • Jane: Acing the Corporate Law Internship

    • Took on extra responsibilities beyond her role, such as legal research that was not initially part of her job.
    • Impressed her supervisors with her dedication and professionalism.
    • Earned herself a full-time job offer at the end of the internship.
  • Mark: Leveraging School Resources for a Criminal Law Internship

    • Utilized his law school’s career services and attended on-campus recruiting events.
    • Landed an internship at a prestigious criminal law firm.
    • Gained hands-on courtroom experience that became invaluable when he started practicing law.

These case studies show that whether you’re working remotely or on-site, your actions during an internship can significantly impact your future career in law. Make the most of these opportunities by being proactive, professional, and engaged.

 Key Takeaways 

  • Internships Matter: They're not just resume fillers; they're career builders.
  • Do Your Homework: Research firms and tailor your application to fit their needs.
  • Ace the Interview: Prepare well to discuss your skills and current legal topics.
  • Professionalism is Crucial: Dress well, be punctual, and maintain a professional demeanor.
  • Communication Skills: These are your bread and butter in the legal world. Hone them.
  • Be Proactive: Don't wait for tasks; seek them out and exceed expectations.
  • Adapt and Resolve: Learn to handle conflicts and adapt to different working styles.
  • Remote? Still Visible: Even if you're interning remotely, maintain high professional standards.
  • Network, Network, Network: Build relationships during your internship and keep them alive post-internship.
  • Every Step Counts: Each experience is a learning opportunity on your path to a legal career.

Internships are a pivotal part of your legal education and career. From securing the right opportunity to excelling in your role, each step is a learning experience that brings you closer to becoming the lawyer you aim to be. So go ahead, start your prep, send out those applications, and take your first step into the legal world.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I start looking for internships?

Are unpaid internships worth it?

Can I get academic credit for my internship?

What should I include in my law internship resume?

How can I make a good impression during my internship?

What do I do if I'm not getting substantive work during my internship?

How can I network effectively during my internship?

What is the importance of a mentor during an internship?


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