October 17, 2019 Practice Points

A Guide on Internships

A few suggestions to help you find and make the most of a good internship.

By Leonard Wills

Obtaining a good internship is one of the most transformative experiences in law school. A good internship has many positives: discovering legal areas of interest, career opportunities, creating new friendships, and networking—to name a few.

So, how do you find a good internship?

Think about Areas of Interest

What areas of law interest you? Perhaps you cannot answer this question—what interests you remains unknown. Another question to ask: What areas of law do I dislike? This answer can serve as a guide to consider what you enjoy. Also meet other attorneys and speak with them about their legal practice. Think you’re interested in employment law? Speak to an employment attorney. Interested in taxes? Talk to a tax attorney. Interested in trusts and estates? Well you get the picture.

Network, Network, Network

You’ve heard enough about networking. Networking, however, involves more than exchanging contact information or meeting as many attorneys as possible. It involves following up with individuals and forming professional relationships.

Also, speak with your professors. For most law students, professors serve as their introduction to the legal field. Law professors can also become mentors. Mentors guide, challenge, and support you in your endeavors.

Lastly, meet with career services about opportunities. They can lead you to opportunities that might not have been on your radar.

The advice mentioned above is simple; however, you’ll be surprised at how many people do not speak with their professors and career services. Don’t miss out on opportunities!

Conduct Internship Research

Avoid waiting until the last minute to find an internship. Last minute applications limit your ability to cast a broad net: both in finding possible interests and meeting application guidelines. For instance, some internships may have a late semester deadline—e.g. December, around or right before finals. Others may have an early spring semester deadline—early January. If you are not diligent then deadlines will be missed and so will opportunities.

Internships Become References

Remember that your supervisor can become a reference when applying for a job—assuming he or she doesn’t hire you. I provide some advice below.

  • Be punctual. Enough said. If you have a legitimate reason—such as a family emergency—mention to the employer a family emergency has arisen. Generally, an employer understands—just avoid to many “family emergencies.”
  • Don’t be rude. You’ll be surprised. For instance, do not disrespect the legal assistant or other interns. Treat everyone with respect. You never know who’s watching.
  • Avoid self-entitlement. No matter the law school you attend or GPA you may have you’re still a law student. With this said, show some humility and willingness to learn.
  • Do good work. Submit your work on time. Don’t wait until the last minute to get an extension if you need one.

Most importantly do the best you can—we all make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and grow.

Good luck on your endeavors.

Leonard Wills is a presidential management fellow in Washington D.C. 

Copyright © 2019, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).