The summer before you apply to law school is a wonderful chance to obtain professional experience that can bolster your career. If you know you are going to apply to law school, you should use this opportunity to boost your application by completing an internship. Law school admissions committees want to see that you are a hard worker as well as an effective researcher and writer, that you have a lot of creativity, and that you are a self-starter.
Establishing close relationships with your managers and mentors at a summer internship can set these people up to write you strong letters of recommendation for law school. Additionally, this position can provide valuable material for your application essays.
Here are seven ideas for summer internships that can give you a boost when you apply to law school:
1. Intern at a law firm.
If you work at any kind of law firm, you will gain a great understanding of how the law works.
Many big law firms have a formal internship program geared toward someone who has not yet attended law school. Internships at smaller law firms may vary, but they can still provide valuable experience. Internships at any type of law firm will likely be posted on their site, but if smaller firms do not have a formal internship posted, they may be open to take you on if you cold call them.
Interning for a law firm will give you the opportunity to conduct important legal research and gain writing experience, which will teach you about tools specific to the profession. You will also learn about different types of practices and clients and can develop experience paying attention to detail and editing.
A smaller firm will likely give you more opportunities to get hands-on legal experience, but big firms with established programs may provide unique experiences as well. Either way, you will probably have to do administrative work such as ordering lunch, making copies, and booking rooms, but all of this is essential to paying your dues and helping the law firm run effectively.
2. Intern at a business.
Businesses have a wide variety of interns. Therefore, you will likely find many businesses with legal internship openings. At the same time, many business internships could relate to your legal interests as well. Most businesses have an internship posting, but a smaller and more local company might be open to cold calls.
Every corporation has some sort of legal support, so working with its legal team can help you learn about how both the company and its industry as a whole interact with the law. Interning with a legal team can demonstrate your ability to navigate the complexities of a business and understand how the law intersects with it. Additionally, working for a business related to one of your interest areas can further demonstrate your passion. For example, if you are interested in entertainment law, you could work at a film company. You can showcase this experience regardless of whether you intern with the company’s legal team or some other department.
3. Intern in academia.
The main way to intern in academia is by working as a research assistant for a professor. Professors need help with research for writing textbooks or an article. This experience can help you learn about a particular subject, further important research, and develop your research and writing skills. Sometimes schools will have postings for professors looking for research assistants, but given that just about every professor has their email address publicly posted, you can reach out to most professors about an internship.
Assuming you do a good job, this experience can also provide you with a solid letter of recommendation. Law schools will be looking for letters from professors who can back up your academic skills. Serving as a research assistant to a professor will allow them to see your academic rigor up close.
4. Intern for the government.
An array of different government entities offer internships. Speaking broadly, you can intern for the federal, state, or local government. Beyond that, you can intern in the executive, legislative, or judicial branch. You can even specialize further. For example, if you are interested in environmental issues, you can intern for a government’s environmental department. Most government organizations will post when they are looking for interns, but constituent-accessible offices, such as a member of Congress or a local county courthouse, are often amenable to being called.
Just about any government internship will showcase your interest and skills concerning the law. All elements of government intersect with the law. Additionally, these entities will have you focus on specific causes, conduct research and writing, and demonstrate your understanding of how the law works.
5. Intern abroad.
Interning in another country can offer many unique experiences and be a lot of fun. You can intern for another government, a company in another country, or an international nonprofit. Generally, you should look for formal postings on these internships. It is better yet if you know someone who has completed an internship at an organization of interest to you.
Aside from the benefits mentioned above, interning abroad can show that you are a global citizen who is aware of what goes on beyond the United States. Moreover, it can demonstrate your ability to adapt to new environments and go outside of your comfort zone. If you are interested in international law, completing an internship outside of the United States can further show your interest in the subject.
6. Intern for a nonprofit.
Many nonprofits can use an intern for a host of different needs. Furthermore, many nonprofits are dedicated to legal issues. These organizations typically provide free representation to the vulnerable in society, such as low-income criminal defendants, asylum seekers, and people facing eviction, among other issues. Major nonprofits will likely have formal postings, while a smaller, local nonprofit might be more open to cold calls.
Smaller nonprofits will probably give you more hands-on experience, but all will teach you something about the legal system and showcase your passion for the law. A legal nonprofit will likely give you exposure to cases and other legal procedures. Ultimately, any nonprofit can provide interesting material for your application essays.
7. Become an entrepreneur.
If you have an idea or initiative you want to pursue, the summer might be the time to do so. You can pursue whatever you are passionate about, be it a business or a political cause. Some ideas may be more feasible than others, but so long as you pursue them with a real plan and hard work, law schools will respect your efforts.
Pursuing any initiative can demonstrate that you are a self-starter, as well as your creativity, passion, and expertise. Doing so can also provide interesting experiences and insights for your application essays.
Beyond These Ideas
Sometimes life can get in the way of completing a traditional internship. You might only be able to do an internship if it pays, or you could have family obligations or have to get financial support from another means. You want to gain experience that shows you are a hard worker, that you have a lot of creativity and initiative, and that you are well versed in research and writing. There are opportunities to do this beyond the seven ideas featured in this article. Whichever type of work you choose will not just serve you well for your law school application; it can also help you decide what type of law you want to practice in the long term.