Interning is extremely important for law students; it’s the only way to experience what being an attorney will actually be like. Law school teaches you concepts, but it doesn’t tell you how to be a lawyer or explain the day-to-day realities of your career.
Finding and getting picked for an internship is almost as stressful as trying to get a job. There are applications, interviews, and negotiations, and that’s just to start. Once you get the internship, keeping it and learning from it brings its own set of challenges.
1. Know your worth
Generally, people will always try to pay you as little as possible, especially when you’re an intern.
Dina Sarver, a current law student recalls her experiences with various internships. “For my first internship, I really sold myself short and I wasn’t getting paid nearly as much as I was worth, but because I was new and inexperienced, I thought it made sense to get paid so little,” she said.
You may not have a ton of law experience, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have skills and qualities that make you a worthy prospect for an employer. Your class ranking, academic affiliations, and previous work experience can all be used as leverage for a higher salary.
“Negotiating your salary can be difficult because you don’t want to lose the opportunity, but you also have to understand your value and make sure your potential employer understands it, as well,” said Dina.
2. Choose wisely
Just because someone is willing to hire you as an intern, it doesn’t mean you have to take them up on their offer. It’s really important that your employer has enough experience and is someone you can learn from.
During her second semester of law school, Dina faced a difficult situation with one of the attorneys at her internship, “He would ask me for advice on cases and would often defer to me when trying to make up his mind. I wanted to help and I was proud that he cared about my opinion, but I got the feeling he just wasn’t very knowledgeable.”
Interning is stressful and confusing as it is, working for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing just makes it worse.
3. Find your purpose
Internships are the best way to figure out what area of law you eventually want to go into. Many people start law school with an idea of the kind of lawyer they’re going to be, but once they actually work in the field, they realize it wasn’t what they wanted at all.
It’s important to determine what you’re willing to give up your life and time for. What will make losing sleep and being away from loved ones worth it? The only way to figure that out is to do the work.
Interning is as much about finding your purpose and your calling as much as it is about gaining experience.