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Law Practice Today

February 2024

Three Tips for Being Inclusive When Working with Law Students

Keisha L Stokes-Hough


  • Law student internship experiences are essential for developing practical skills, building professional relationships, and shaping expectations for what a career in the law will be.
  • Providing diverse experiences for interns is critical to helping them decide on a career path.
  • Effective feedback for interns about their performance is important for ensuring that law students receive a meaningful learning experience.
Three Tips for Being Inclusive When Working with Law Students

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We’ve all been there. Excited about a new professional opportunity but unsure if we’ll fit in or have what it takes to succeed. As we enter the office for the first time, we’re filled with butterflies, questions, and often doubts. What can make this rite of passage a fond memory rather than a regrettable one is having someone to welcome you in a thoughtful and supportive way.

Whether as an intern, extern, clerk, or summer associate, many of us got our start in the legal profession while still in law school. These early experiences are essential for developing practical skills, building professional relationships, and shaping expectations for what a career in the law will be. Below are three tips for making the transition from student to colleague a smooth one for law students joining your team.

Introduce the Law Students

Months often pass between the time that law students are extended an internship or externship offer and their start dates. In that span, attorneys have case and personal obligations that occupy most of their time and attention. As a result, incoming law students are sometimes forgotten about until the day they show up to work, which can be quite the surprise for those left out of the loop in the office.

Here are some steps you can take to make a law student’s first day meaningful for everyone:

  • Note each law student’s start date on the office calendar and set yourself a reminder for several weeks out to begin preparing for their welcome.
  • At least one month prior to the law student’s start date, reach out to reintroduce yourself and express that you and colleagues in the office look forward to the student joining the team. Invite the student to submit a photo and a brief bio that you can circulate among the team prior to the student’s start date.
  • Within two weeks of the law student’s start date, share the student’s name, law school, and introductory information with your office colleagues. Invite them to come to you if they have any questions or ideas for projects the law student can work on.  

If you apply these steps, the entire office will be primed and ready for the law student’s first day. Be sure to set aside time for colleagues to have one-on-one chats with the law student to introduce themselves personally. 

Provide Diverse Opportunities

After years of preparation to go to law school and countless study hours toward completion of their degrees, it’s no wonder that law students have big expectations for their first legal jobs. Unfortunately, too many law students leave these positions without gaining as much as they hoped from the experience.

One error attorneys make is to limit law students to too narrow a range of activities. It’s true that preparing legal research memos is often the linchpin of the internship or externship experience. But I recommend having a conversation with law students at the start of their employment to determine what other practical experience they would like to receive.

For instance, meeting with clients and interviewing potential witnesses are activities that the experienced attorney may take for granted. But for law students, these practical tasks can present ideal situations to explore the ethical and professional responsibilities of attorneys, which the students may not otherwise experience in law school outside of the clinical setting. If the work of the office involves representing detained or incarcerated clients, inviting students to accompany attorneys on client visits can be especially important in preparing them for a similar career path.

Additionally, if case work presents an opportunity to go to court, I encourage taking law students with you. In court, law students will be able to see our legal system in action, an experience that traditional coursework cannot provide. If possible, give the students a brief tour of the courthouse and introduce them to some of the attorneys, court staff, and judges you work with. Law students greatly appreciate the exposure to our judicial system, which is excellent preparation for law practice.

Prioritize Feedback

Law students are often unsure of how well they are doing or what they need to improve on until they receive direct feedback from the attorneys they support. While effective feedback requires time and preparation from the attorneys, it is a critical step for ensuring that law students receive a meaningful learning experience.

To make the most out of your feedback, you should offer it throughout a law student’s engagement with our office, not just at the end. When providing feedback, it is important to acknowledge areas in which the student is performing strongly and also identify areas for improvement. When correcting written work, provide clear edits that the student can refer to in the future to avoid repeating those mistakes. And to reinforce prior feedback, have follow-up discussions with the student during regular check-ins to answer any lingering questions and assess progress.

Attorneys should also solicit feedback from the law students they work with. Inquire about how their projects are going, any support they need, and what could make the internship or externship better. Then make adjustments as needed to improve their overall experience. By showing that you value the law students’ input, you will help them acclimate to the office environment and feel like members of the team.   


The opportunity to mentor an aspiring attorney is one of the rich traditions and true joys of the legal profession. Our efforts to ensure that today’s law students gain valuable experience while working with us will pay dividends for generations of lawyers to come.