Undergraduate Law Internships: How to Find and Apply for One
Internships are programs in which students can train with experienced professionals to gain experience in a practical setting. Undergraduate law internships may be unpaid if they replace some course credits, or paid if you pursue one after graduation. If you're studying law, learning more about what internships are and their benefits can help you determine if one is right for you. In this article, we explain what law internships are, provide steps you can follow to find an internship program, discuss how to get into one, and provide helpful tips for improving your chances of getting the internship you want.
What are undergraduate law internships?
Undergraduate law internships are programs in which students can work closely with lawyers to learn more about the trade. Internship programs allow students to gain experience and understand what the daily tasks may be within each type of practice. These are some benefits you may experience if you choose to complete a law internship:
Networking: During an internship, you can meet other interns and develop relationships with your mentors and leaders. This can help you further develop your network and increase your future job prospects.
Skill-building: Internships often allow you to experience situations in which you can develop your communication, negotiation, problem-solving, and legal skills. For example, you may review cases you're unfamiliar with or learn about tasks associated with legal work you haven't experienced before.
Experience: Following an internship, you can list the experience in your application materials to help you receive an offer for a position or gain additional opportunities. You can also use the law internship to experience types of law you haven't considered in the past.
How to find an undergraduate law internship
Obtaining a law internship takes planning, research and preparation. Here are some steps you can follow to help you get an undergraduate law internship:
1. Identify your interests
The first step to finding the right internship for you is knowing which qualities you want for the program. This may include the length of the program, who's involved, and what type of law you can learn about. These are some factors you can consider when identifying your interests:
What type of law does the firm practice?
How long does the internship last?
Which tasks are you interested in trying?
How many other interns are there?
Who's the mentor for the program?
Do you receive individual guidance?
2. Determine your long-term and short-term goals
When determining the ideal criteria for an internship, consider both your long-term and short-term goals. For example, a long-term goal may be graduating from law school and earning a position in a top corporate law firm. Your short-term goal may be to fulfill the internship requirement for a law class you're taking. To make progress on both goals, consider seeking an internship program in corporate law that's only a few weeks or months long.
3. Know your qualifications
Some internship programs seek graduate students, while others accept undergraduate students in their third or fourth year of a law-related course. Before researching internships, it can be helpful to update your resume and make a list of your qualifications. Consider the classes you've completed and other interning experiences.
4. Research internship opportunities
To learn more about the internship opportunities near you, speak with your professors and advisors. Advisors may communicate directly with the firms offering internships, which can make them a great resource for you. For more ideas, consider using your school's job database to find internships, or use a search engine to look for them. If there's a local firm you like, you can also consider scheduling a meeting and asking about potential interning opportunities.
5. Compile your options
After researching, make a list of the internships that interest you and fit into your schedule. If you're taking classes, be sure to consider the commitment in hours an internship may require before applying. You can also rank the programs based on which you like best, and those that may not be your top choice.
How to get into an undergraduate law internship program
These are some steps you can follow to apply for and get into a law internship program:
1. Prepare your applications
Each internship can have different requirements for its applications. Starting early on your application can help you ensure you have time to complete all the parts. For example, some applications may require that you submit letters or recommendation, a statement of purpose, or an essay alongside your resume or cover letter.
2. Submit your applications on time
To avoid a late application submission, mark the dates down on a calendar. Use your computer or phone to set reminders so you don't forget to submit. To be extra careful, consider submitting each application a few days early. This can be helpful if you're submitting them online, as it can help you resolve any technical issues before the due date.
3. Practice for an interview
Many law internship programs require you to sit for an interview. This can help them learn more about you and make a connection. These are some things you can do to prepare for the interview:
Choose a professional and appropriate outfit.
Practice answering questions with a friend.
Review your resume and other application materials.
4. Follow up with the firm
After your interview, be sure to send a handwritten note or e-mail to the firm or person offering the internship. Thank them for their time and remind them of your interest. Following up can help you show your professionalism and stay recent in the mind of the interviewer.
Tips for getting an undergraduate law internship
These are some helpful tips for finding and receiving an offer for a position in an undergraduate law internship program:
Network and build connections
Making connections with people in the profession may expand the number of internships available to you. Contacting your professors, attending career fairs, and contacting local legal organizations can all lead to internship opportunities that may not be posted publicly. You may ask for an internship by sending a polite, personalized e-mail directly to a firm. Even if the firm is not looking for an intern, showing interest may help you develop connections with those working in the field.
Know the application requirements
Your application is the internship coordinator's first impression of you. Following the application instructions is key to making a good first impression. For example, make sure you submit your application materials to the right place. Some internship postings may ask you to apply on the company website or directly to the internship coordinator over e-mail. Carefully following the directions shows your attention to detail, organization, and that you take your application seriously.
Have someone review your application
Before submitting, have another person check your application and provide feedback. Scheduling an appointment with your school's career centre can be a good way to get constructive feedback. If you know someone who works in law, asking them to review your application can give you specific advice for applying in your field. Even having a friend or family member read your application and provide feedback.
Customize your application
Review the internship listing and customize your materials to fit the internship description. Identify your relevant skills and experiences and promote them by including them clearly on your resume and cover letter. Taking the time to match your skills to the posting shows your interest and highlights your abilities so you may distinguish yourself from other candidates.
Law internships are highly competitive positions. It may take time to land an internship. Employers and hiring managers are busy and may not respond to your application or e-mail inquiries right away. You can follow up with them if they haven't responded within a week, but ensure your message is polite and professional when making contact.
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