How to Get (Or Create!) A Law School Summer Internship
How to Get (Or Create!) A Law School Summer Internship: Law school is unique in that almost every industry touches law in some way. Some companies have larger legal departments, with a hierarchy of hires: summer interns, associates, paralegals, researchers, and general counsels. Some companies, however, have a sole general counsel. Whether you see yourself working in a firm in the future or in-house, the best way to get hired is by having experience. A great way to do this is through a law school summer internship!
Securing an internship is no joke, especially if you want to work at a company that has only one or two in-house counsels in popular destination cities. Here I’ll outline the tips I (Adrianna) used when forging a legal/licensing internship with an international fashion house in New York City.
How to Get (Or Create!) A Law School Summer Internship
1. Do your research.
First, start the process early! Securing summer law school internships is like the Hunger Games. Start in September for an internship the following summer. Which industry are you interested in? What kind of companies inspire you? Which companies are leaders in the industry you’re interested in? What city do you want to be in? Make a list. Excel is a great option for building a chart. Check out companies online and see if they have posted any summer internship positions on their career boards. Also, don’t solely rely on postings, since they receive thousands of responses to those. The process below is more likely to get you hired.
2. Find a contact person and ask for help.
This is the internet age. Your next step is to get on LinkedIn, Google, reach out to your college network, family friends, neighbors, etc., whoever you know that somehow has a connection to that industry and ask for help. No shame! You really have nothing to lose. If you cannot find a contact person, call HR and ask to speak to the individual who manages legal department hiring. (Shhh. Better yet? Find the name of someone with your dream job at the company and ask to speak with them. They’re usually impressed with the diligence.) Add the HQ number and your contact person and also their email address to your growing list.
3. Reach out.
Email your contact person- whether it is someone directly at the company, or someone that knows someone at the company. Write out a highly edited email, with a very professional tone oozing with inspiration and admiration. I suggest “Dear …, I’m a second year law student at (school) and I am so inspired by (company). It would be such an honor and a dream to contribute to the company as an intern for the summer. I’d love to speak with you about the process when you have a chance.”
My best advice is to just go for it! Have a standard email that you save and can easily personalize for each company you reach out to. Do your research on the company and then make your emails all about them – standard emails are dead giveaways. Personalize! Also, make sure to keep track of the dates of communication; give the other person 3-4 days to respond before following up.
4. Communicate with your law school.
Generally, you can get credit for a law school summer internship. Get this approved by your career counselor early on. It typically requires a bit of paperwork, so it’s good to start ASAP – October or November.
5. Establish a relationship with your contact person.
If they can’t help you, maybe they know someone who can! If there is no internship program, sell yourself. Convince them how easy you’ll make their life and what a mutually beneficial experience it can be. (I did this!).
6. Get the ball rolling.
Ask about the hiring process, and then ask for an informational interview. Don’t be shy! HR departments get a million emails a day, so it’s easy for them to forget about you. Follow up and help them to know and remember you! If they’re not interested or the position is filled, then move on to your next option! You’re one step closer to finding your dream law school summer internship. Let go of these opportunities gracefully, since you never know if something else will become available. Be polite, thank them for their time, and ask them to keep you in mind if there are any future opportunities. If you really wanted that job, check in with them every few months and file them away as a networking contact.
7. Round one: phone interview.
Chances are, you’ll probably receive a few phone interviews. When you do, here are some tips. Research the company and also its legal department, and type this onto a 1-2 page cheat sheet. Has the legal department in the company had some exciting case wins? If so, make sure to mention them. Also remember to research your interviewer. Did she/he go to the same college as you? Maybe they’re from your hometown, sorority, high school or law school. Mention it. Did they have any influential cases or articles they’ve published? Read them!
Most importantly, ask questions! Asking question can only help you because they help you seem more engaged in the interview process. My favorites are: as an intern how can I exceed your expectations? What are the most important attributes an intern can have, in your experience? Does the company allow internships for school credit? Ask about 5-6 questions. Very important: ask them for their email/phone number so that you can follow up! Don’t forget this step.
8. Follow up.
After the phone interview, immediately send a personalized email. Have a standard email ready and fill in those blanks. For example, “Dear (interviewer), thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule this (morning/afternoon). I really enjoyed speaking with you about (X), (Y), (Z). Our conversation has validated my interest in (company) and I would be so grateful to be considered as an (internship title), etc…” If the interviewer is different than your contact person for the company, shoot your contact a little email update about how much you appreciate their help in coordinating and making your interview possible. Keep track of all of these dates.
9. Don’t relax until it’s set in stone.
Keep following up. My law school had some papers my internship boss had to sign to secure the credits. Don’t drop the ball just because you have phone interviewed. Usually you’ll have 3-4 interviews before they’ll extend an offer. Internships are competitive! Comfort is the enemy, stay on your toes! If you don’t hear back after you send an email, call them! I had my internship secured by February, but then found out my interviewer/future summer boss left the company! Do your diligence, keep following up, and don’t assume the gig is secured until you begin. Always have a backup option in case something falls through at the last minute.
Once it’s pretty secured, focus on the rest of your semester and keep in touch with the company. Send them emails on the holidays or just to check in, and show how interested you are.
11. Plan for living.
Finally, if you have to move for your internship, make sure to plan for living in your destination. I clearly don’t like to make things easy for myself, so I decided to intern in New York City. Rumor had it that NYU dorms are available at great prices for summer interns. However, unbeknownst to me, some of these dorms don’t have A/C. Avoid the stress and start your process early. Find someone to live with! Try to be near public transportation.
If you follow the above process, I can truly say you will increase your chances of getting a law school summer internship. My best and biggest tip of all is this: don’t be shy and, hard as it might be, remember to be patient. The process is long and grueling, but hugely rewarding. Everyone has gone through this process and understand and even respect your diligence. Don’t let rejection get you down. Instead let it motivate you to continue forward until you find or create a great opportunity. Finding a job can be a job in itself. Set aside 2-3 hours a day to work on this during business hours (9am – 5pm). Go for that job you dream of and don’t look back! Good luck!
Adrianna, a recent law school graduate, wrote this post about her law school summer internship experience. If you have any questions, please feel free to post in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.