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Internships at a law firm as a college student - how?

aug1aug1 Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
edited July 2006 in Law School
I am currently a highschool senior who has been accepted into college.

In another board I read a post by another highschool senior who got an unpaid internship position at a law firm. Reading that post I thought 'If a highschool senior can get an internship position at a law firm, surely a college student can'

Due to personal reasons, I can't work this summer. But as a person enthusiastic about career in law, I would really like to be an intern at a law firm next summer, with or without pay.

I would prefer to work in law firms in the New Haven region (where my college is), because I live in a place where there aren't many lawyers.

I would greatly appreciate any advice you might be able to give me on accomplishing this. Specifically, how do I go about finding law firm internship positions? Do I search the web and read ads on newspapers? Should I send my resume and cover letter to area law firms? To whom should I direct these letters to?

What kind of experience would help me get an internship position?

Even if your knowledge does not directly answer these questions I would still be very thankful if you would share it with me. I would be especially excited to learn about experiences of people who did get internship positions at a law firm.

Thank you
Post edited by aug1 on

Replies to: Internships at a law firm as a college student - how?

  • aug1aug1 Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    I would also like to know how helpful having an internship experience at a law firm is. In terms of law school admissions, is it worth the effort?
  • bizymombizymom Registered User Posts: 197 Junior Member
    realize that both yale law school and quinnipiac law school are in the new haven area - so law firms looking for student interns have a pool of real law students to hire. for summer jobs, those at YLS certainly will have greater options than local firms, but some first years, at least when i attended YLS did end up working for local firms over the summers. (i don't have any personal knowledge re quinnipiac law school students.) and there is also the univ of connect. law school not that far away.

    so options for college students may not be that great as in an area where there aren't as many law students. also realize that you woud probably be doing pretty clerical work. while i was at YLS, i worked parttime at a local firm during the school year -- there were also some college kids working there -- there was a vast difference in what we were doing -- they were photocopying and filing.

    don't rule out your home town where there aren't many lawyers -- those lawyers might be more likely to need some summer help.

    in terms of how to find something -- a starting place would be when you get to campus to see if there is an office that deals with internships and/or job placements to see what help they can be. you could also just mail out letters to firms in the area you want -- expect to have a very low response rate from those letters, but you might get lucky. do you know anyone who knows any of your home town lawyers who could put you in touch with them?

    also - one final word of advise -- although you now think you are interested in law school, realize that you are just beginning your college career -- college is a time for exploring what is out there -- there are tons of other possibilities you may not even be aware of. keep yourself open to other possibilities. i am not discouraging you from trying to intern in a law firm, since that could be a way to see what life as a real lawyer is like -- something too many law school applicants simply don't know -- which may help you decide if that really is the right career path for you. i don't know how helpful the internship is in terms so admissions, but it can help you know whether you really do want to be a lawyer. (though remember there are many different types of practices -- eg. interning for a small local firm, won't show you what a big corporate practice is like)
  • starryqt22starryqt22 Registered User Posts: 576 Member
    you can always try, but from what I have learned most law firms don't like to take undergrad/high school students because they are not experienced, especially when they are able to hire law school students.
  • nspedsnspeds - Posts: 5,382 Senior Member
    Most experiences an undergraduate will have working at a law firm will be too insignificant to note on a curriculum vitae. One is better off pursuing something more substantive for the summer, and I am quite positive that law schools are inundated with applicants who photocopied briefs for a summer. Pun intended for no apparent reason.
  • makemehappymakemehappy Registered User Posts: 322 Member
    most law firms don't like to take undergrad/high school students because they are not experienced, especially when they are able to hire law school students.
    Not always true: Last summer I was a HSer coming out of her Jr year, and I landed an internship spot at a federal district courthouse. All the other interns were law school students; I was actually the first HSer they'd ever taken.

    So really, it depends on the person/place you go. And about it being insignificant--not necessarily. at the district courthouse, I got a chance to work directly with cases and write case summaries that went directly to the judge, in order to prep him for his hearings. It was definitely a valuable experience...plus, the judge let me sit in on his hearings every monday at the little "intern table" (: so fun!!

    I've just graduated, and this summer I'm doing an internship at a law firm in my area. How I personally got it was as follows: I took Criminal Law at school, and our final was a mock trial, in which I was the "head prosecuting attorney". Our "judge" was a real practising attorney. After the mock-trial was over, he gave me his business card and invited me to email him with my resume. A week later, his secretary called me.

    It's all about the networking. ;D

    And about law schools caring--I heard that a lot of good students were actually being rejected because of a lack of work exp...and I figure more work experience never hurt anyone (: I'm hoping to intern every summer from now [technically last summer] until the end of my college career.
  • aug1aug1 Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    Thank you everyone for your kind replys:

    Makemehappy you are the person who made me realize that significant work experience can be had at my age and prompted me to write this post.

    I would like to congratulate you on your success.

    I do not feel that I must to intern at a law firm. It can just as well be at a district judges office. How did you get to work for a judge at such a young age?
  • AdmissionsAddictAdmissionsAddict Registered User Posts: 1,405 Senior Member
    Several major NYC law firms take college students the summer after their junior years for project assistant jobs. These pay well and give excellent insight into life at a large firm in New York. From the people I've known who have done such programs, the project assistants are almost exclusively from Ivy League colleges and the work is more than just photocopying, although college students clearly aren't closing deals or doing rigorous legal analysis.
  • dadofsamdadofsam Registered User Posts: 1,635 Senior Member
    Aug1: Makemehappy's experience is extremely rare, possibly unique. Through the high school activity he/she got the judge's attention and the judge decided to give a promising student a leg up. Internships with judges are rarer and more in demand than at law firms.

    What you need to do is, aside from the possibility of project assistant jobs mentioned by Admissionsaddict, is to demonstrate some interest in, and experience with, the law. One way to do that as a college student would be to get involved with criminal justice projects (e.g. the Innocence Project) or legal clinics in your area. These projects are often looking for volunteers and they don't have to be law students. With such demnstrated interest a law firm could have a reason for offering you an internship. Without one, why should they do to the trouble?
  • starryqt22starryqt22 Registered User Posts: 576 Member
    Hey, I am not saying it is impossible to intern for a law firm. I am currently interning for the District Attorney, not office work but specific research and working on cases WITH the DA and his Deputies. I am the first undergraduate student they have taken as well. He told me during the interview that usually they would take only Law School students.
  • farbdogg71farbdogg71 - Posts: 724 Member
    What you really need to do is have a parent or close family friend supply you this kind of job. Scenario:

    I have a friend this summer who is working one of the best law firms in the seattle area. She is not the one with the highest gpa (a mere 3.3),most qualified, shes not the smartest but she has people skills and can interact well with the firm.

    Her dad knows one of the partners because his company does their legal work through this specific law firm. She is going to be a sophomore in college next year so i think she is in the minority of students holding an actual position like this at this point in her life.

    You need to use who you know to the best of your advantage. It is not about getting the most presitigious internship your freshmen year (essentially anything after that would be considered a downgrade). If you work your way up you are more likely to be hired from a presitigious firm later because you have the work experience they want.
  • sallyawpsallyawp Registered User Posts: 2,059 Senior Member
    Assuming that you do not have any connections to help you get a job, there are a large number of organizations that do pro bono work in locations across the country that may be happy to take on a volunteer to do client intake, to help the volunteer lawyers and perhaps even to do some research. You can find lists of these organizations by googling "law volunteer opportunities [name of town/city]" or by visiting the web sites of local bar associations. Of course, these organizations need volunteer attorneys the most, but supporting those attorneys is important too, and while some of the support work may be more akin to office duties (and every lawyer actually does some of these too), you may have an opportunity to become more involved, and you will certainly get a taste of what lawyers do for a living. In my opinion, a long term commitment to a particular pro bono law organization not only looks great on your resume or law school applications, but also may open doors for you down the road.
  • Jimmy2588Jimmy2588 Registered User Posts: 700 Member
    sallyawp, thanks so much for the information. There are indeed volunteer opportunities in my area!

    On the other hand, If I wanted to open up my options and work in a local firm, would I be able to email/fax my local law firms with a resume and letter asking for an unpaid position?
  • ariesathenaariesathena Registered User Posts: 5,087 Senior Member
    You're always able to send in a resume, Jimmy. Whether or not anyone will care is a different story. ;)

    If you're in high school, I would really suggest a few things:
    1) networking, and
    2) small firms/solo practioners.

    Your parents must have a will (or they should). Who wrote it? Who handled your aunt's pre-nup agreement? Do your parents use a tax attorney? Those practices tend to be small and have clients that are people you would actually know. Have people you know well ask on your behalf - "hey, my nephew is a great kid, really smart, very detail-oriented, very interested in law - do you or do you know anyone who would let him come in a few hours every week after school to get a feel for the legal field?" gets you so much further than dropping resumes cold.
  • Jimmy2588Jimmy2588 Registered User Posts: 700 Member
    ariesathena, I am an incoming college freshman, would that make a difference?

    Also, I spoke to my mom and she doesn't know anyone well in the legal professional, so I think my best bet is to volunteer.

    So, I have a couple more questions if you don't mind :).

    1. How receptive are local firms to undergrads then? I was going to try and contact www.garrett-tully.com/CM/Custom/Home.asp. Will they really not care.. because if they wont, I don't know if it will be worth it to pursue them.

    2. Would you be able to provide some more information on volunteering? What kind of duties will I be doing? How will it give me "a taste of what lawyers do for a living?" Here is the volunteer description if it helps at all:

    "The courthouse offers a wide-variety of volunteer opportunities to fit your level of interest and schedule.

    While increasing your familiarity and understanding of the legal process you will be satisfying a need for help in areas such as Civil, Small Claims, Records, Collections, Criminal/Traffic and Family Law.

    Whether your valuable contribution includes organizing documents, applying your computer and/or people skills, you will be mentored through your assignment to maximize your volunteer experience."

    Thanks for all of your input!
  • aug1aug1 Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    Jimmy2588 asked the questions that I am also wondering about.
    Any ideas anyone? :)

    The advice I received at other boards is that it would be a good idea to begin with a volunteer organization.
This discussion has been closed.