At the end of my sophomore year of my undergrad, I left for summer sales. I was ambitious, excited, and had big plans for the load of money I was going to make that summer. There was only one problem, I despised sales. I was selling for a pest control company with my brother and we were both struggling. However, he was performing well enough to continue and I wanted to have a good summer with him. But I couldn’t wait for school to start again.
About half-way through the summer, I thought about my career and confirmed that I wanted to be a lawyer. Instantly, I knew that I needed to make plans to help me be successful. But I did not know where to start. Looking for any kind of experience seemed like a good idea. I decided that the moment I was back in state, I would look for a job in the legal field (or anything that would give me experience, even if it was only volunteer work). So, I crafted up a resume, looked up several law firms, and was excited.
Once I was back, I immediately dropped off the resumes at law firms, hoping somebody would give me an interview. I didn’t even call in advance. I am sure each firm was confused when I showed up unannounced asking for work. Thankfully, several offices gave me an interview on the spot and one firm offered me a position as an intern.
Realizing that I could probably receive credit for an internship, I found a class and received 3 credit hours for that semester. The internship lasted about 9 months until the COVID-19 pandemic started and I found a job at another law firm.
How you should actually find an internship
Although my approach worked, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone else. I was fortunate that a law firm was willing to take me on their team. There are several lessons I learned from my experience. First, dedication pays off. If I stopped looking for an internship after I was rejected at one law firm, I would have missed out on an excellent opportunity. Second, students receive a lot of benefits just for being students. The law firm I interned at recognized that I was a student and gave me a chance to learn while I benefited their company. Finally, you should use those student benefits. This third point is key.
The pre-law advisement center
One of the advantages students have is access to the pre-law advisement center. There, students can learn about law school, law related classes, and internships.
At BYU, the pre-law advisement center works with local law firms to schedule internships for students. Then the center offers a way to obtain course credit for participating in that internship. All the student has to do is show up, register for the course, be presented with several opportunities at internships, then interview with those law firms. To receive credit for the course, the students need to provide a weekly report and have the firm verify the hours worked. Here is an example of BYU’s pre-law internship course description.
I would not change a thing about my experience of obtaining an internship, but the pre-law advisement center makes it easy on students and takes care of the behind-the-scenes for you. In fact, I ended up working with several other interns who found the firm through the advisement center.
Another thing to consider is if you should look for an internship with a law office or another field. For instance, if you have a major that is unrelated to law, you may not be able to receive course credit if you complete a legal internship. If this is the case, perhaps you can complete an internship related to your major and ask to spend some time with the legal department. One of the benefits of having an internship is evaluating your career interests and spending time in several fields can help narrow your focus.
Some of the firms may require you to interview for a position, even after you have registered for course credit. Take the time to review best practices for interviewing such as:
- Knowing what the firm does
- Understanding the firm’s mission statement
- Know what you can add to the company
- Practice for the interview
Law firms that interview will accept their interns just like they would hire employees. They are looking for someone who will fit in with others, perform well, and is likeable for both colleagues and clients.
During your internship, you will want to work hard to ensure the firm finds success in the cases you handle. The better you perform, the more the firm will like you. Performing well could benefit you when you are looking for Letters of Recommendation (if you choose to request one outside of academia). Additionally, high performance can lead to future employment opportunities.
The nice thing about having an internship for course credit is that you can determine how many hours to work per week. The fewer hours you work, the fewer credits you receive. Likewise, the more hours you work, the more credits you receive. Working more also looks better on a resume and gives you more time getting to know those at the firm.
When you should complete an internship
I may not have found my internship through common means, but I did complete my internship at the perfect time. You should look for an internship to complete either the summer after your sophomore year or the beginning of your junior year. By that time, you have enough collegiate experience to be attractive to firms. You may also need to meet prerequisites before being allowed to register for course credit. Being further along in your undergrad makes it more likely that you have met those prerequisites. Additionally, you should be set on a major and can choose an internship accordingly.
Benefits of an internship
There are several benefits of completing an internship.
- Work experience
- Developing strong work relationships
- Utilizing those relationships with Letters of Recommendation
- Receiving course credit
- Evaluate future academic and career plans
- Building a work and law school resume
There are other benefits as well. Having even one of these benefits would make an internship worth the effort. I am grateful for the lessons learned and benefits received from my internship experience.