Law School

Things to NOT Do as a New Legal Intern

Summer jobs are about to start in just a few weeks—this will be my sixth (!!!) summer working with interns and it’s hilarious to me the huge difference in my supervision skills that I have now compared to my first summer.  Like, the fact that my first summer I had no supervision skills for one…

Now that I have some experience on working with interns I can tell you how small changes in behavior can make a big difference in having a successful summer job.

The open secret is that many attorneys strongly dislike working with students because it often ends up being more trouble than it’s worth.  But I LOVE student interns because I know with a little effort up front, we can get awesome results by summer’s end. And while you shouldn’t really have to persuade an attorney to work with you the truth is that there are things you can do that will make them feel more inclined to give you work and guidance over the summer


Some Do Nots for New Interns:

One. Don’t be too casual too soon.  Obvi, you don’t want to be stiff and uber professional, when that’s not the atmosphere, but you don’t want to forget that your internship is a long-form interview (even if your place is not hiring). Acting too friendly or lax with attorneys without having proved your work quality will leave a bad impression—or at least an impression that you can’t read the room. I had a student who would always mentioned how they were hungover. Like, I don’t care if you party, but have the good sense to seem like you’re going to be productive at work.  Why would I assign cases to someone who is not at their 100%?

Two. Don’t assume you know the rules.  At the beginning, it’s better to play it safe and verify even what seems like simple things.  The reason for this is that every attorney has their own preference of doing things and you may have read the rules, but in practice, it’s actually different. When mailing things (yes, we still use actual mail), I like to verify that it’s been received. I always make sure to tell students to send via fed ex or certified mail, but some attorneys may not give that instruction because they think it’s common sense.  When assigned new tasks, ask for the attorneys preference on how they want it compiled, mailed, written, etc.

Three. Don’t forget that this is a two-way street. You’re not just there to provide free (or low-cost) services. Make sure you set goals for yourself for what you want to get out of your internship.  Make sure you keep track of your progress and make an effort to ask your supervisor for assignments that will further your goal. Often times, students forget that you’re there to grow as a professional and willingly do any and all tasks without ensuring that you’re also getting your time/money’s worth.