1. Begin applying in November or December. While it's true that your brain is craving rest and relaxation by winter break, this is also the time that many companies and law firms begin posting announcements and accepting applications for interns. Though it's great to give yourself some downtime during winter break, make sure you also break out that resume and submit a few internship applications. By the time summer vacation rolls around, you'll be so happy that you didn't waste an opportunity to land an internship.
2. Search outside the box. Most students begin and end their search with the Career Services Office at their school. However, this simply isn't enough. If you want to gain the best possible chance of landing an internship, you have to do some independent research. This means exploring companies and corporations in addition to Law Firms and Judicial Clerkships. Examples of industries worth your consideration:
• Oil & Gas Corporations
• Legal Counsel at Colleges & Universities
• Churches & other Religious Groups
• Small & Local Businesses
• Financial Institutions
• Pharmaceutical Companies & Local Pharmacies
• Car Dealerships/Automotive Companies
• Music Companies/Record Labels
• Real Estate Companies
• Construction Companies
• Cosmetic Companies
• Publishing Companies
• School Districts
• City Government Offices
As you can see, there are many opportunities for summer work if you dare to search outside the box. Landing an opportunity with one of these sectors may require additional work on your end, but you'll gain an invaluable experience. Most of all, you may end up creating a future position for yourself upon graduating from law school.
3. Be open to small boutique firms. There are numerous opportunities for unpaid work. In fact many small law firms (1-5 attorneys) are often the best places to begin your search. Many small firms are always looking for law students but law students aren't necessarily looking for them because pay is not included. What many law students fail to consider is the potential for future career opportunities and the opportunity to obtain a well-rounded experience. Oftentimes, small boutique firms refer work to "contract attorneys"—attorneys who work independently and are not associated with a law firm—to help manage their caseload. If you do a great job during your unpaid internship, chances are great that you'll be amongst the firm's options when referring work. Small and boutique firms are also great places for internships because most handle a myriad of litigation. Therefore, you'll leave with exposure to more than one area of law by the end of your internship. The trick to landing a position with a small/boutique firm is being proactive and submitting a resume even if they do not post an opening.
4. Join the local bar association. Though it feels a bit awkward to be in a room full of attorneys with more years of experience than you have in education, it's a great place to make connections. Local bar associations often post information on scholarships and internships, and guess who learns about them first? Their members! Never underestimate the power of your local bar! If you're worried about fees, the great news is that these memberships are often free or minimal for law students.
5. Get involved in the community. It's never too early to start performing pro bono work. You'd be surprised at how many organizations in your local city would love to have a law student on their side. If you have an idea of your intended practice area, search for local organizations that are connected with that area. Many of these groups have monthly service opportunities that will allow you to get an inside look into the field, and form connections to land a summer gig!
6. Talk to your law professor. Professors aren't just there to give long assignments and tough exams; they're also there to support you. Professors often have great connections with law firms, companies, and even other law professors. Your professors can be great resources to you and can help you get an edge on the competition simply by using their connections. If you've formed a solid relationship with a professor, be sure to seek him or her when searching for summer internships. If you haven't formed a relationship with your professor(s), now would be a great time to start.
7. Consider a summer research project. Many law schools offer students the option of performing an Independent Research project over the summer. These opportunities also often include a summer stipend and offer class credit. Taking advantage of an opportunity like this allows you to work at your pace throughout the summer, earn money and class credit, and could also lead to a law review publication once you complete your project. Again, opportunities like this aren't always advertised so you may need to inquire with your Dean, the Registrar, or the writing director at your law school.
8. Work for yourself. If there's one thing that many attorneys dislike, it's legal research. Many solo attorneys often outsource their research to law students who are looking to make extra cash on the side. If all else fails, post an ad on Craigslist and market yourself as a Researcher. You can set a competitive hourly rate and earn a steady stream of income for yourself. If you do a great job, you may even land a position for the school year or an Associate position post law school graduation.
These aren't all of the tricks to landing a summer internship, but they will certainly help you. The best takeaway from this list is: BE PROACTIVE! Don't be afraid to initiate contact with companies, law firms, and attorneys. You never know who needs what you have to offer.