Law School

A Successful Intern is a Proactive Intern

End of June is always so exciting when SCOTUS decision come down. While I am still so sadden about DAPA/DACA+, I’m elated about Affirmative Action and the women’s rights cases decided today.  But in the midst of excitement is still the day-to-day work that is never ending! I’m actually going on vacation this week (follow me on Instagram to see my trip to Italy!), but I’ve been working double-time to make sure the interns I work with have a steady stream of work while I’m gone—I mean, just because I’m out of the office doesn’t mean I can’t get work done 🙂 (kidding, kind of).

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I know a lot of attorneys just don’t like the work that comes with supervising, and as an intern you may find yourself with little work and/or no real guidance.  You still have a lot of summer left and it’s important you don’t just waste it because your supervisor doesn’t know how to supervise. What can you do if you start to feel like your internship is dragging and not giving you the best experience in terms of work and flexing your skills?

Look for other options. That’s really the key—it’s easy to get lost in the structure of the internship and not think of different ways to get in experience. Let me tell you about the summer I wasted as a public defender intern.  Ok, first it wasn’t a total waste because they let me do a trial (which is still questionable about how that happened…) but in reality that summer I didn’t do much but observe.  I had a 711 license (which would have allowed me to appear on behalf of clients and I barely used it!).  I didn’t ask for more work because I assumed the attorneys would know what to assign me. I assumed they were trained on correct supervision. I assumed that if they weren’t trusting me to stand in court it was because I wasn’t ready.

All stupid, horrible assumptions.  If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to 1) have a goal for the summer and 2) push for ways to use your 711 so that I really got a feel for litigation. But I can’t go back in time and instead if you find yourself in kind of at a weird standstill at your internship here’s what I encourage you do:

  • Ask for a research assignment. I know research is probably the least fun thing ever, but doing research helps you learn the law; practice your writing skills; allows you to educate other attorneys; and you can leave the experience with a writing sample.
  • Be proactive. I attended a panel last fall where a senior partner, who was Latino, mentioned that he gained a mentor as a first-year associate when the Partner emailed the agency asking a question. The panelist took it upon himself to do research to answer the question and wrote a memo for the Partner. This obviously showed initiative and intelligence—something the Partner didn’t want to ignore. Always be on the lookout for these types of opportunities.
  • Seek other attorneys. If assignments just aren’t coming your way, ask your supervisor if you can work with other attorneys (most supervising attorneys won’t mind sharing). Instead of presenting this as “hey boss you don’t have enough for me to do,” you can mention that you’ve heard about a particular case or topic and you’d like to get involved.

The overall theme here is to be proactive as an intern—this isn’t just you providing some a little bit of help, you’re also here to build your skills and make yourself marketable so do the best you can to make sure you get the experience you need.

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