A few weeks ago I wrote a post on what to do BEFORE your law school internship search, and I mentioned that I had some job interviews over spring break. Well, I am pleased to say that I got have accepted an internship position working as a summer associate in a law firm this summer - an opportunity I am so excited about! Not only will I be gaining great experience, but I will be working in a firm that I absolutely love that does work I am passionate about. This summer cannot come soon enough, and I am so grateful for this experience.
I thought I would try to give some insight to other law students who might be seeking internships and looking for some tips and tricks to secure a summer job. I'm only in my first year of law school, so my internship search experience is somewhat limited. However, I might as well share what little I do know about the process to help others as best as possible.
I seriously mean everywhere. There are a lot of different legal experiences out there, but there are also a lot of law students. Although you should think about what type of experience you want and what type of experience you absolutely do not want, be open to other possibilities. As a 1L, you will be at the bottom of the totem pole in the intern pool - jobs are much more likely to take 2Ls with experience or even 3Ls that are planning to intern before securing a full-time job. Thus, you want to increase your odds by applying to as many jobs as possible.
I knew that I wanted to be in a firm for the summer, so I applied to over fifteen summer associate positions at firms. Out of these, I probably only heard back from about five, and two of those were simply that the firms don't accept 1L interns. Hence why it's important to apply to a lot of places. Accordingly, although I wanted to be in a firm, I also applied at a few corporations, non-profits, and government jobs to make sure I was being thorough. I ended up balancing three offers, one for a firm, one for the district attorney's office, and one for a non-profit. And that's thanks to me sending out over twenty applications overall.
Figure Out Living, Transportation, and Finances
While you are searching and applying, you might be asked questions like "Do you have a place to live?" or "Do you have reliable transportation?" and for public interest jobs, employers might be concerned about finances (because public interest jobs typically pay nothing or very little). This is especially important as a 1L, because the majority of 1L internships are unpaid. I was lucky enough to secure a well-paying firm job, but my employer still wanted to ensure I would have no problem relocating to the area or getting myself to and from work.
Make sure to make these arrangements, even tentatively, ahead of time. I applied in four cities - two I could work in while staying with my parents, the others were in Houston and Denver where I have family that offered me a place to stay. Just having a quick answer to know that you will have some of these arrangements made can be a huge comfort in the interview process.
Plan Out Answers to Typical Interview Questions
If you're searching for an internship, chance are you will have to do a couple of interviews. These might be phone interviews, Skype interviews, on-campus interviews, or interviews at the office you are planning to work at. Whatever way the interview takes place, a lot of the questions will likely be the same. Typical ones to expect are:
- Tell me about yourself. (This might be the most important one, so think about it a lot)
- Why did you go to law school?
- Do you like law school?
- What has been the hardest part about law school for you?
- What type of law do you want to practice in the future?
- Do you have any legal experience?
- Why did you apply here?
- What interests you about working here?
Your career services office probably provides lists of interview questions as well, but these are the ones I got asked by most of my interviewers. They also might ask about something specific on your resume, like your GPA, class rank, an activity, a job, or an interest. Be prepared, but don't be scripted.
Look the Part
Most legal jobs, as much as I hate to say it, care about what you look like. No, they don't care about your specific physical features. But they care that you look the part of a lawyer. If you're interviewing, you should always be wearing a suit - no exceptions! A conservative suit is the standard lawyer apparel. For guys, this means a black, dark grey, or navy suit with a tie and preferably a white or pale blue shirt. Ladies - it kills me to say this, but you should be wearing a skirt suit in black or navy with panty hose and a two-inch heel. Make sure you have a well-fitting suit so that you can walk into an interview always knowing you are dressed appropriately. One of the good things about this is that I always feel extra confident in my suit, and putting it on really gets me in the interview mood.
Find a Place Where You Fit
This is the absolute most important thing when finding the perfect law school internship. Walking into the firm where I applied, meeting people that worked there, and discussing their work made it abundantly clear that this firm was the place where I really fit in. I was able to joke around with the interviewers, felt comfortable in the office, and really felt like they were invested in my future at the firm. I like the work they do, the people that work there, and the possibility of a career there. And most importantly, I feel like I will actually enjoy my days working there. I had several interviewers email me following the interview and tell me what a great fit I would be for the office - and I truly believe that. Although I had other offers, it was clear where I wanted to work.
I highly reccomend you find a place where you fit. It's not just about finding a job - it's about finding the right job. Finding a "perfect fit" job as a 1L might be somewhat difficult, but if you work hard and expand your horizons, you might just find it. Don't be afraid to be yourself and search for a job that you'll actually enjoy, because in the end, the payoff will be worth it.
All of these are general guidelines, but I hope they can be at least a little bit helpful in your internship search. It's crazy to think that after these seven months in law school, I will be out gaining my first legal experience in just a few weeks!