Four Top Tips for Landing a Law Internship

If you’re planning on a law career, there’s no better way to get a real-world feel for the practice while simultaneously increasing your marketability as a job candidate than by interning at a law firm. Read on for four tips aimed at helping you land an internship while taking a giant step in the direction of your professional goals.

1. Assess Your Options

All law internships are not created equal. In fact, there are many different kinds of legal internships and clerkships available within the state, federal, corporate and nonprofit sectors, each offering different advantages depending on your career plans.

Before you even begin looking for an internship, take time to consider which areas of law are most of interest to you. Even if you end up shifting your focus later, choosing an internship in an appropriate area can help lay a solid foundation as you’re building your law career.

If you’re looking to strengthen your knowledge of a particular aspect of law or to develop a particular skill or skillset, meanwhile, the right internship can help you fill in gaps and/or gain expertise.

2. Show Your Stuff

Law firms don’t just let anyone through the door. They’re looking for the very best candidates with the potential not just to contribute in the short term, but who also might become full-time associates with the firm some day.

The best way to make an excellent first impression? Spend ample time on your application. This begins with an honest assessment of who you are, what you’ve done, and what you’re interested in doing. All of this information should make itself into your application in a concise yet compelling way.

A well-executed CV can be an invaluable marketing tool so make sure yours showcases everything you have to offer. (Just make sure it does in in two pages or less!) Crafting your CV doesn’t just mean cramming a bunch of information about yourself into a single document. Rather, it’s a strategic process which will allow you to feature your unique selling points. Yes, honesty is important, but so is being smart. Make sure to highlight your greatest achievements, such as leading university credentials, an excellent GPA, relevant experience — all of which are distinguishing factors with the power to separate you from the crowded field of applicants.

Not sure whether your application and CV will make an irresistible impact with their hiring committee? Stop by your school’s career center to learn about resources designed to help job-seekers polish and perfect their application materials.

3. Network, Network, Network

By now you may be tired of hearing about the importance of networking. But there’s a reason why it comes up so much: It works.

In a world in which who you know matters almost as much as who you are, getting a foot in the door often comes down to having the right connections. This doesn’t mean your grandfather has to golf with the president of the firm. But it does mean thinking of every person with whom you interact as a potential letter of reference or introductory phone call. Even if networking doesn’t directly result in your landing the internship of your dreams, talking to people in the legal profession can help you derive a better understanding of the profession at large and where you’ll best fit into it.

Your university’s career center is a great starting point when it comes to building your network. Attending alumni gatherings, mixers and other school events can help you get your name and face out there. Reaching out to law professionals in your desired field can also be successful; while they’re busy with their own careers, they can also remember being exactly where you are now.

Still coming up short? Consider using an internship service. While this will cost you, it may make up for it in connections.

4. Follow Up

One of the most common mistakes made by prospective job applicants? Failing to follow up after the interview. Sending a thank you note isn’t just about being polite — although that matters, too — it’s also about demonstrating your continued interest in the position. In addition to conveying a warm thank you, your thank you note or email should reiterate your interest in the position while incorporating specific details related to your interview experience.

Think of it this way: Given the choice between two otherwise equal candidates, is a hiring committee more or less likely to hire the one who shows initiative by sending as thank you note or the one who fails to follow up?

One last thing to keep in mind? While landing a law internship is cause for celebration, what you make of that internship ultimately depends on you. Will the experience end up merely as a new line on your CV, or will you make a real contribution while you’re there? A proactive attitude can help you hit the ground running in order to start amassing the practical skills and professional relationships you’ll need not only to ace your internship but to position yourself for a successful law career.