The legal job market looks good this year, compared to the preceding ones. The employment rate of new law grads is seeing an increase after a flat market. According to National Association for Law Placement, the overall employment rate for 2016 was 87.5 percent, which is “up by 0.8 percentage point compared with 2015.” Considering this market rise, it is no wonder that more and more students will be interested in law schools. But graduating from a law school isn’t enough; they also need to have proper skills and experiences to find their dream job.
Enter the internship.
A law internship is a great option for undergraduate or law school students to get some hands-on legal experience, giving them the chances to develop their emerging skills from experienced lawyers as well as dive deep into the area of their interest. Unfortunately, not all interns get into the highly coveted summer associate positions in the top-tier firms. The good news is: You can still develop those important job skills to help you secure employment even if you didn’t get an internship opportunity at your law firm of choice.
Here are 3 tips to help you get an internship to get a glimpse of the day-to-day tasks as well as gain hands-on legal experience of your chosen career path.
Send speculative applications to companies
Chances are, you already know the companies you want to intern with. If not, make a list of law firms that interest you and start doing this months in advance. Send them out speculative emails attached with your latest CV and a short personalized cover letter. Tell them why you’d like to intern with them and request them about their upcoming vacancies.
One of the best ways to do this is to create a spreadsheet along with the name of the companies you emailed, the date of the email, and their responses (if any). Now let’s be practical about your expectations. Not all companies you apply to will revert back. But if you hear back from about five or so out of every 50 emails you send is still a decent number. Remember that persistence is the key here. So keep sending as many emails to different law firms as possible.
The real challenge begins after you get the interview call. Only a minor part of the interview will focus on confirming your resume, i.e. ensuring that you actually know what your resume says you know from a technical standpoint. The majority of it is about finding whether or not you are right fit both for the company and the position. So prepare yourself for the behavioral questions and try to articulate a cohesive and compelling story while answering them as the law firms are likely to check your prowess in various competencies or skills required for an intern.
Be the most prepared candidate
As a law school student, you may have some good grades or some pretty average ones, and some achievements and anecdotes under your belt, but don’t worry if you are not the best candidate. Just be prepared for the interview. That’s what really matters. Know your resume off by heart and have your answers ready for every question they could possibly ask. Some of the pointers that can really make you come across as the most prepared candidate include:
- What’s the law firm is famous for
- The big cases the firm has law firm has worked on, include those they lost, won, and settled
- The blue chip clients of the law firm
- The number of their international offices
- Their top players
The list goes on. The trick is to know everything about the law firm under the sun. This will also give the law firm the chance to see how good you are with research, which is also one of the most important responsibilities of a law intern. Prepare several months or years (if possible) in advance to bring out your absolute best at the interview. And to achieve it, all you need is a clear goal and a strong action plan.
Most importantly, remember that you are running your own race and while there will always be someone better, you have no other options than giving everything you have to your dreams.
Choose a small/solo law firm
As a law student you goal is to get as much hands-on legal experience and exposure as possible during your internship period. Now everyone dreams to make it to a large, reputed law firm. But the truth is only a handful will make to them. So don’t let this get you down if you are not one of them. There are many small or solo law firms where you can do internship that give you even better chances to learn – after all that’s your ultimate goal.
Besides, working with a small or solo firm gives you better visibility and there will be almost no competition for your summer law internship, meaning higher chances of getting hired. In fact, these small law firms can help you learn to use effective body language, handling meetings, interview clients, and writing a compelling brief etc. in a much better way than a large firm where you are just a tiny, almost invisible player who is there for a few weeks. Chances are, you will have experience than your classmates did at large firms. This, in turn, will help you gain confidence which will help later as you try to find a job, making you stand out from the competition.
Finding a small or solo law firm is not really a problem. You can ask your friends who got hired, career counsellors and advisers on campus, check out job listing websites, and search online. For example, if you aspire to work in the field of personal injury, search online for the personal injury attorneys in your city and start enquiring if they have an intern position for you. You need to make yourself visible so have no boundaries and no shame.
When it comes to finding an internship position, speaking to people and emailing or calling them is perhaps the best way. This is one area where word of mouth works wonder as not may law firms go for advertising internship positions. Besides, it helps you to learn, grow and develop skills that you need to focus on later.
But securing an internship position is just one part of the challenge. Remember that the real challenge begins after you start working; be as professional as you can and learn about your firm as much as you can. This will not only help you gain experience and knowledge, but will also greatly improve your chances of getting hired even before you graduate from the law school.