If you’ve managed to land an internship in a legal practice for the summer, then well done you! You might feel a bit nervous about it being fast-paced and intimidating for newbies, but just keep these pieces of advice in mind and you’ll make it a great success.
Your placement is actually a two-way interview
Of course, you’re desperate to impress your potential employers, but they’ve got to impress you too! You might actually find after a few weeks that the ethos of the practice isn’t what you’re looking for after all. They’re not holding all the cards! Look at the way people are treated at every level, how partners interact with each other and how, for example, sex discrimination cases are talked about. If you feel you’d be happy working there every day, then it may be a goer; if not, then take the experience and look elsewhere.
Don’t worry about lack of legal knowledge
You may be in a gap year, or just finishing your first year of law school so you’re not a fount of knowledge yet. This isn’t a problem for vacation placements – no-one will expect you to win a case single-handedly just because you’ve visited a legal website or two. In fact, you’ll be spending most of your time researching, editing documents and transcribing notes. Just take every opportunity to talk to people and get your face known. Having a little bit of legal knowledge can actually lead to someone coming across as overconfident.
Do keep up with the news, though
You should be aware of what’s happening in the law field that you’re in. You should know about cuts to legal aid, for example, or changes to corporate law if that’s the sort of practice you’re with. Make sure you know about the bigger stories at least.
Go in with a can-do attitude
No matter what size or branch of law firm you’re placed with, you should approach your time there with a positive outlook. It’s amazing how often interns skulk around, sighing at having to edit another draft or look up old cases. The sunny interns stand out and often get the jobs in the end.
Understand the environment you’re in
If you’re with a solicitor firm then you’ll be in among a busy team and you’ll be expected to pitch in and may end up feeling like one of the guys. If it’s a barristers’ chambers, however, then it’s a different atmosphere altogether. In a chamber, you’ll find it a lot more formal because it’s composed of self-employed individual solicitors.
The trick is to be respectful and polite wherever you are and remember that you’re dealing with professionals and their clients. You might be invited to lunch in the former but sent out to get lunches for the latter; do either with equal grace and enthusiasm.
Don’t take selfies in a chamber
It’s been done before, with some interns wearing the wigs that their mentor barristers had left behind and sharing the selfies on social media. This wasn’t a good career move, so don’t follow in these particularly clumsy footprints.
Keep your eyes on the prize
You might be interning to get a feel of a law firm just in case you want to study law at undergraduate level, or you may be garnering several pupillages in order to apply for your first training contract. Whichever it is, use the experience to its maximum and make sure you take something away from it to use as a stepping stone for your career path.
Have you been through a legal internship? If so, share your experience with others in the comments below.