As a law student, where you intern matters. Your internship has the potential to turn into a full-time job after law school. While some people make light of interns as unpaid workers at the bottom of the ladder, getting exposure to the kind of work that goes on in your chosen field of law builds a strong foundation for success -- and finding a job after graduation.
Finding the right internship can be an exhausting process, but don't shortchange yourself by taking the proverbial low hanging fruit. Explore your options, challenge yourself and find an internship that leads to the career you desire.
1. Narrow Down Your Options. Decide what kind of legal internship or clerkship you are seeking. A wide variety of internships are available both at the state and federal judicial levels, as well as with large financial firms like Goldman Sachs and other corporations.
Determine what kind of law career you would like to build. While it is always possible to shift focus later, building a solid foundation within the area of law you wish to practice makes entry into the job market much easier down the road.
Consult with professors and other professionals in the field to understand the expectations of a particular law internship. Ask for advice about what clerkships and specializations are the best fit for your natural abilities and skill set.
Check out firm websites as well. For instance, if you are interested in auto and car accident law, look into firms like Joel H. Schwartz, P.C., a known law firm in Massachusetts that works cases in insurance claims and other personal injury matters. They offer great advice for those who have recently gotten into a car accident through a simple call. Reading up on their cases should give you a picture of personal injury law and whether it interests you.
2. Devote the Time to Your Application. Take time to prepare comprehensive and intriguing application materials. Make your application stand out from the pack by taking the time to direct your cover letter to each firm you apply to and tailor your resume to their needs.
Consult with the career center and your professors for feedback on what works and what doesn't work in your application package.
3. Network. It's never too early to start networking. Often, an informed letter of recommendation from a trusted colleague or professional makes the difference between landing a choice internship and being left out in the cold. Foster good relationships with professors and attorneys you already know.
Seek out not only written recommendations but genuine knowledge and insider information about the field. Talking to a professional often lifts the veil of mystery surrounding an arm of the legal profession; talk to professionals to get a clear portrait of the kind work a firm engages in.
If you have limited resources, feel free to reach out to an internship locating service. Be sure to use the career center at your school first -- many internship services cost money and provide limited results. Ask your school for recommendations as well as assistance.
While not all law professionals are accessible, feel free to reach out via email or contact an attorney's legal secretary to set up a meeting.
4. Prepare for Your Interview. Once you land an interview, it’s time for more research! Prepare by answering practice interview questions out loud. This helps you build muscle memory. This practice will come to the rescue if you become frozen or tongue-tied on a certain question -- simply defer to the answer as you have practiced it.
Be poised, well groomed and well-dressed. Ensure that your clothes are well-pressed and your hair is neat and professional. Avoid heady perfumes and colognes which can be a turn-off to some interviewers (and even agitate allergies in others).
5. Follow Up! So you ace the interview. Don't forget to send a thank you card and follow up with your interviewer. If a decision is being made quickly, feel free to send an e-mail.
Be crisp, clear and warm in your thank you. Feel free to address anything you did not cover in the interview. Be sure to personalize the note with details about the interview. While a great thank you note won't help you overcome a poor interview, it can help hirers make a difficult decision if two candidates are in the running.
When you land your internship, enjoy the opportunity and be a sponge. Soak up all the knowledge available to you. Be proactive, curious, and communicative. You start building your career the first day of your internship; start building practical skills and fostering good relationships and you can’t go wrong.
This is a guest blog post.