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The Necessity of Law Internships


Look. You could go to law school because you’re a humanities major and that’s just what humanities majors do. Or, you could get some work experience at a law firm before you take the plunge into law school. Law school is not for everybody. Neither is practicing law.

If you spend a few years, or even a few summers, at a law firm, you’ll be in a much better position to figure out whether you really want to practice law. If you don’t want to practice law, you should not go to law school. A law degree is just way too expensive for dabbling.

We just wrapped up our on-campus interviews. My friends who worked at firms before coming to law school did great. They had genuine interests in specific practice areas. They could also talk about what they wanted out of a firm cogently and convincingly. I’m sure they were the more attractive candidates too, because the firms can expect them to quickly adapt to doing the work.

My other friends who worked in government and non-profit legal departments did just as well. They too knew what they wanted from a legal job. Some want to go back to government. Others want to stay as far away as possible.

You will have your first summer at law school to learn more about the legal job market, so if you do want to go straight through to law school, that’s not a bad idea either. It’s just better to get some experience before you commit to law school.

So what kind of legal jobs are out there for an undergrad or recent graduate? First of all, you should try to get work as a paralegal. As a paralegal, you’ll have lots of interaction with attorneys, and you’ll get a feel for what type of work you’d enjoy. But if you can’t meet the requirements for a paralegal, you can also try working as a “legal assistant,” which is like paralegal-light. You may also try to get a job with a non-profit that works with, say, children in the dependency system, or asylum seekers, or prisoners. People also find interesting legal work in compliance departments.

It’s definitely easier to get an unpaid internship along the above lines, than it is to find full-time employment. But neither are particularly easy gigs to land. You should at least give it a try though, because the benefits can be huge!