While I was in undergrad, I felt like there was a lot of pressure to get a legal internship before applying to law schools. I can tell you for a fact that law schools do not care if you have worked for a law firm or not. So don’t stress if you don’t get one! However, I still really wanted to do one prior to law school to make sure it was really what I wanted to be doing. I’m also hoping it will help me when I interview for 1L internships in the spring, but the jurys still out on that one.
For starters, it can be really difficult to get a legal internship while you are in undergrad because employers don’t know what you are capable of. If you live in a town where there is a law school, there is also going to be competition from actual law students. Hopefully my experience will help a little bit!
So here’s the story of how I got my first legal internship: There’s a criminal defense attorney where I went to school that was a a fraternity advisor and liked to do risk prevention training with fraternities and sororities. His wife (who is an alum of my sorority) gave our advisor his card to see if we would be interested in having him come speak at one of our meetings.
This attorney was fairly young, solo, liked greek life, his wife was a fellow DG, and had an interest in educating young people. If anyone wanted an intern, it would be this guy.
I emailed the attorney in early November inquiring about possible internship opportunities, and he told me he was a tad busy and to email him next semester. He assumed I’d forget and that would be the end of it, but I had set a reminder to email him again in January. I emailed him again with an updated resume and updates on my law school acceptances and he (begrudgingly) agreed to meet me. He wasn’t really in the market for an intern, but his wife was a DG and I was persistent so he hired me.
I feel like my story probably isn’t how you typically get an internship… but there are some key takeaways here:
1.) Find an In: You probably know SOMEONE who knows a lawyer. Whether it be a student org advisor, a professor, or a family friend, you need to find an in. A great way to meet local attorneys is to join a pre-law group that lawyers speak at. Always introduce yourself to these people because even if they can’t hire you, they might know someone who can.
2.) Be Persistent: The lawyer I worked for really thought I’d forget and he’d get rid of me pretty quickly. Fortunately, I didn’t. However, be careful about how you do this and don’t be too annoying about it.
3.) Find Someone Who Is Likely to Take an Intern: The lawyer I worked for was young, solo, and very invested in educating young people. I didn’t apply at the biggest firm in town. Bigger firms are typically recruiting at the law school, so find someone who probably isn’t recruiting law students. Also, its a good idea to find someone interested in students because they’re more likely to take you on. Maybe this person does a lot of pro-bono, or regularly speaks at fraternity/student org meetings. Maybe they teach some undergrad law course and practice on the side (or maybe they know someone). Find someone who really wants to educate a student.
Side note: I call this an “internship” because typically you need to be in law school for it to be considered a “clerkship”. I’ve called it an internship and clerkship interchangeably.