First Year Summer Internship

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Intern — “An advanced student or recent graduate who is apprenticing to gain practical experience before entering a specific profession."

-Black’s Law Dictionary



For this summer, I have the wonderful opportunity of interning with a judge in my hometown.  I’m currently in my fourth week of interning and I really enjoy the work that I am doing, along with the cases I get to observe.  The main types of cases he hears are custody cases, juvenile cases, and alternate courts that focus on rehabilitation, such as veteran’s court.  So, here are some of my tips on how to find a summer internship, to choose the right one for you, and to get the most out of this rewarding experience.

Finding a Summer Internship

Contacts

To find my internship, the first thing I did was reach out to people I know to see if they had an idea of where I could intern.  I reached out to a friend from high school’s mom to see if her company was hiring legal interns and a former teacher whose husband works at a large law firm in my hometown, just to name a few.  Ultimately, I picked an intern position with a judge whose daughter is a high school friend of mine.  Those contacts I already had were a great starting point to find options of where to intern.

Networking

So this is probably the most cliché of all advice related to finding a job or an internship, but I’d say it definitely works.  Even this morning, I met a woman who works for a lobbying firm waiting for the elevator and she asked me about my blazer from Banana Republic (shocker there).  I then went on to say I work there on my breaks from law school, and she told me where she works is always looking for interns and gave me her card.  And this is definitely not the first time something like this has happened to me before.  I have met plenty of people who have told me to reach out if I wanted to shadow or intern with them.  You really never know who you might meet and how they might help you in the future.

School Career Strategy Office

This is probably another cliché place to start, but the career strategy or career support office is a great place to find internships.  My school has an online database of different law firms, judges, and companies looking for interns during the summer and the school year.  I personally applied for a few internships through this service and found it really helpful that I didn’t have to track down these internships myself.  It is also a great place to get advice for helping your resume look perfect and giving a great impression in your cover letter. 

Picking the Right Internship for You

Judicial/Law Firm/Other

This is probably the first thing you really want to determine in your search for internships because where you intern is critical to how your summer internship will be like.  For judicial internships, it’s definitely a more hands on experience than working somewhere else.  In my office, there are two interns (including myself) that report to our judge’s law clerk, the law clerk, a judicial assistant, a court reporter, the crier, and the judge himself.  So it’s a lot of one-on-one contact with my supervisor and the judge himself.  Most of the time I observe court proceedings and do legal research on specific issues to write opinions and memorandum on my research.

However, places like the DA’s office and the PD’s office have a larger number of interns working for them so there’s not as much personal interaction with their supervisors.  I really think observing court is a great way to learn about the court system in general and a great way to expand on the information learned in the first year.  Other students take summer internships with law firms, but typically those intern spots are taken by 2L students as they prepare for jobs after law school is over.  Additionally, some students get internships with companies after their first year, working with corporate counsel.  However, the positions I looked at that I was interested in required applicants to have completed Intellectual Property, which as a first year, I have not yet taken.

Credit/Paid

One of the major things I considered when I was picking internships to apply for was whether it would be unpaid or paid.  This distinction is important if you have an internship credit requirement like I do since most law schools don’t allow students to get paid and earn credit at the same time.  I have to complete two different internships during my three years for a total of three credits.  This summer seemed like a great time to get one of those internships out of the way and to get some experiential learning after my first year.  So, I took an unpaid internship this summer and decided to continue working part-time at Banana Republic to make some money.  Another important distinction is the time requirement of your internship.  Working at an unpaid internship usually gives you a little more flexibility with your schedule.  My definitive schedule for working at court is on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday so I can work during the week at Banana.  However, I do go in if Banana doesn’t schedule me during the week so I can observe and get the most experience I can.

Fit

Sorry for all of the super cliché advice, but something to really consider when picking an internship is how you fit in with your colleagues.  Now, this runs from how you like to do work, in a team or by yourself, to how you fit in with who you’re working with.  The last one is a little hard to do when you haven’t met the people you are going to be working with yet.  However, when I had my interviews with different judges, I got a feel for how their chambers are run, which really influenced me when it came time to pick where to intern.  From my experience so far, I can definitely say I picked the right one because everyone in chambers is so helpful when I need help on an assignment or I am just curious about why something happened the way it did.  This is probably easier to determine when you are working with a smaller group and they are the ones you meet at your interview, but I would definitely suggest asking other previous interns about their experience if you need help.

Starting Your Summer Internship

Since I chose to have a summer internship linked to school credits, I first had to attend an internship orientation program, which provided information about legal writing and research for judicial interns, a panel about former interns’ experiences, and an ethics session related to judicial concerns.  In the first week of my internship, I was required to submit an internship letter of understanding with my and my supervisor’s signatures, spelling out the school’s requirements for my internship.  Additionally, internships require you to fill out a timesheet of the number of hours worked throughout the summer.  I highly suggest keeping track of this throughout the summer so that you don’t have to worry about filling this out when it comes to the end of the summer.

Finally, my last piece of advice is to really be open to the whole process.  I honestly had no idea what to expect when I went for my first day, but I was fully immersed just on that first day.  I’ve seen a variety of different hearings, and some have solidified my belief I don’t want to work in that kind of law and others have piqued my interest in how other areas work.  What you get out of your internship really depends on you, and I will say that asking questions has really helped me learn so much more than I knew before my internship.

I hope all of you who have an internship are enjoying it and that you are finding it as rewarding as I am!

Officially a 2L!

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Complete — “Brought to an end.
-Merriam Webster’s Dictionary



I cannot believe I’m already done with my 1L year of law school!  I hope everyone else had a great end to the school year and a wonderful beginning of your summer.  Now that this semester is over and I’ve finally received my grades for the semester, I thought I’d reflect a little on my first year of law school as a whole. 

So I’d first like to say this was the hardest year of schooling I have ever had and it’s my 19th year of school.  I’m really not saying this to scare you off of law school; I definitely wouldn’t give it up, but that’s the truth.  All throughout grade school, high school, and college, I’ve always had homework, quizzes, tests, and papers to help go over the concepts being taught in the classroom.  I’ve also been graded on my own performance on these things.  Well, law school tosses all of that out of the window.  All of the various evaluations typically given throughout a school year are gone in law school.  Only one exam at the end of the semester is extremely terrifying and a little misleading.  You go throughout the whole semester, keeping up with reading, but seeing little benefit from your work and then bam!, a final exam to keep you up at night.  Then, on top of all of the stress that comes with one extensive, arduous exam, professors don’t even grade you on your own merit, they compare you against your classmates in what you wrote.  So even if you wrote a great essay on your final, you could still get a low grade if all of your peers did better than you.

Now, that doesn’t mean I haven’t enjoyed the experience.  This was really the first year in a long time where I enjoyed all of my classes, even if they aren’t exactly my thing.  As a Chem major, I took a lot of classes that (1) either bored me to tears or (2) were so hard that they made me cry on a weekly basis.  Each of my classes this first year had something that really interested me, even if it wasn’t the whole class.  Now, I’m that annoying person who always says, “Well, from [insert relevant class here], I know that [insert relevant fact about conversation here] so I definitely know what I’m talking about.”

My grades as a whole really weren’t too terrible, but are definitely not at the standard that I’m used to.  I had a very high GPA in high school and college so my law school GPA is lower than my GPAs before.  That’s just something that I’m going to have to get used to and not compare myself to others in my class, which is super hard since that’s what your professors do.  After this past year I definitely have my ways of reading and outlining down.  There’s one thing I think I still need to work on, which would be to really focus on the classes that don’t come as naturally to me, like Con Law or Civil Procedure, instead of others, like Contracts or classes with professors I really understand their exam style.

Overall, I’m proud of myself for completing my first year of law school and figuring out my way of tackling classes!  I’m just starting my third week of my summer internship so a post will be up soon on what I’m doing with my summer and how it’s going so far!

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