So you are fresh out of college, or maybe still in college looking to begin to gain some experience to help to begin to prepare you for the real thing when you graduate. And you decide the best way to go about it is to find an internship position at a reputable law firm.
It is perhaps an arguable fact that the legal profession is not a particularly easy one to get into. Granted, it might not be as difficult and intense as the medical field, but compared to many other fields, it still can be quite a hustle. So in this article, we present a few tips that if implemented, are quite certain to raise the possibility of being accepted into that internship at your favorite law firm.
I sincerely hope you are not expecting all the usual cliché about: be prepared, dress smart, have a killer resume etc.? No doubt those, are important, but that is what 1 million other people will do. I guess the most important thing you should aspire to do, is to go over and beyond what you would normally do, and or what everyone else would normally do.
It makes no difference whether you are applying to a law firm of contract attorneys in New York City or to a firm of nyc small business attorneys, or even a firm of Business Litigation attorneys in Dallas. I strongly believe that if you implement one or more of these tips I am about to reveal, your chances of getting accepted into that law internship will be greatly improved.
So to begin…
- Write a Law Review: This tip has to be my number one tip among the list. A well-polished, and ever a professionally crafted CV is all well and good. It might even be decorated with a roll call of honors and a list of A-grade results and all what not. One thing it might lack is the ability to showcase your grammar, reasoning, writing, etc. and all the little nuances around it.
- Engage With Them Early On: When I say engage with them, I don’t mean send in your application on time. Yes, do this, but even before this, get yourself onto the radar of a few key stakeholders at the company! Whether someone in HR, or a senior partner, or such.
The key idea is to make them aware of you and your name, and your links to the law profession. So you should be doing things like reading up on several articles they might have on the blog, and engage the author, or anyone else, on a few things discussed on the blog post. Comment on the blog post and ask them questions, tell them how you think an opinion or information expressed on the blog is incorrect, or at least you think it is, or it is a contrary view held some so and so person, and the proof that perhaps validates this other person’s viewpoint can be seen on so and so.
These are some of the ways you “engage” with your target law firm. If possible, and very preferably, cultivate a rapport and/or friendship with someone important and high-up in the firm. Getting their email/phone number/Twitter handle/etc. And again, begin engaging this person or a few of them months before this internship is meant to start.
So that when you do send in your application, yours, hopefully and likely will not be just another of the hundreds or thousands they receive. And if it so happens that it is someone entirely different who handles the internship selection, you at least have an “insider” whom you can call up, telling how you so much want to be able to work in the same firm as him/her and learn from him/her, and how the conversations you have had with them over the past couple of months has given you a whole new perspective and way of thinking you never knew you had, and bla bla bla. Massaging their ego a little to get what you want.
To me, this is you standing out from the crowd.
- Do Something For Their Firm: I have no idea what specifics you can do, but physically do something that adds value to their firm in one way or another. Either to the firm a while, or a few specific and important individuals at the firm.
Again, this ties into the “getting yourself onto their radar” we spoke about in the previous point. So, if it is getting them a new client, or helping them make improvements to their website, or getting someone to make a mockup of a new and improved website for the firm (E.g. a friend who would do such as a favour for you, as a way to help you possibly secure that internship, so that you’ll owe him/her when you start getting paid, or when s/he needs a lawyer.) Or write an article or articles about them, or, or, or. There are a hundred different things you can come up and you will have to get creative with ideas.
Again, here timing is of the essence, and you have to do this well ahead of your application, to allow them the time to know you and your name, and for you to get to know a few people at the firm.
- Ask to Shadow Someone at the Firm: I know that in a way, that is what an internship is meant to be—an on-the-job-learning. But by shadowing, I mean reaching out to them months, and even a year before you intend to start the program, and ask to “shadow” someone to see first-hand how things happen in an organization.
Now granted, because of the sensibilities and confidentialities that may sometimes exist with lawyer-client relationships, it may not be possible to be their shadow in certain situations, but for those situations that do allow for you to be there, ask to be allowed to observe and learn.
But more importantly, ask to be given any task that is allowable under the conditions. So whether it is typing up a document, or reviewing a document that has been typed up by someone else, looking for errors. The main idea is to be around that environment as much as they will allow. So one Friday every month, leave school early and go shadow someone. Or do so on the holiday prior to when the internship starts.
- Attend the Same Events as The Company: Are there any public, or even private events the company hosts, or will be attending as a guest? Presentations or seminars? Workshops? Find these information out and attend these events.
An as I have repeated mentioned throughout this piece, make sure you are seen and heard at the event. But if you cannot be seen and heard at that event, make sure that when you get a chance to have a one-on-one with a stakeholder at the company, be sure to bring up the fact that “I was at so and so event where you gave a guest lecture, and one thing you said was ….” This again, speaks to making your presence felt, and making them know that you have been in the shadows quietly observing and learning, but now it’s time to come out of the shadows and learn in the open, which is why you “plan on applying to you summer internship program next fall. Can you please advise me what things I can do to increase my chances of getting in?” But of course they don’t know it, but you are already doing that thing.
If you end up using any of these tips and it works for you, we would appreciate hearing from you. So if you would leave a comment on this page, and/or go to our website and send us a mail telling us what exactly you did.