Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Top 5 Ways to Boss Your Legal Internship

I first have got to start this article by acknowledging that there is a myriad of legal fields that you can intern in. Over the summer I had an internship in a criminal litigation setting so this is definitely more geared towards that experience- but I think there’s a lot that can spill over in any type of legal internship or any internship at all for that matter. Okay, now that I got that disclaimer out of the way- here are my five tips for killing your legal internship:

Say Yes!
 This is something that is probably easier said than done, but it’s important that at an internship you learn if you would enjoy working in this particular field. So standing on the sidelines and letting the waves wash over you is not how you’re going to get that experience. My first day of work my supervisor slapped a case on my desk and said, “Can you try this jury trial case in three weeks?” WOW! WOW! WOW! And holy moly! Was my initial internal reaction and then I thought heck yes! What a great experience to really get in the meat of things, but wait… I’ve never tried a case in my life and generally don’t have much of a clue of what I’m doing. Soo…

Learn to Ask for Help
At an internship you want to portray yourself as confident, knowledgeable, and ready to jump in at any time but as many of us know law school doesn’t do a very great job at preparing you for real world legal jobs. That lack of readiness can be really hard to take because no one likes looking incompetent in front of their new boss, particularly type-A law students. But a little secret is that your boss, the same one that was once a law student, does not expect you to know it all. If they have any experience with legal interns, then they know that we know little about what we’re getting into and totally expect you to ask questions.

Don’t Get into Office Politics
 This is a polite way to say don’t be a gossip! Seriously. It’s human nature to be interested in other people but when you’re in the office, it is not the time. Do you want to be known as the intern that goes around talking about people? No. Half of the reason people hire you is for your talent, the other half is if they think you’re a tolerable person who won’t put a damper on the work culture. Remember, you’re entering their world and you need to be respectful of that. You never know the intricacies of standing office relationships and it’s best to just not get involved.

Zip the Lip
 If you have a boss or supervisor that you just can’t stand, learn to just keep it to yourself. This might go with the above advice, but complaining about your supervisor to other’s in the office is just a bad idea. Part of being an intern is having to do the crummy work in office, and while it may stink, you’re paying your dues. Have a supervisor who seems like they are on a power trip? Great, let them have it! If you’re trying to get hired at the office just let it be. I would say even if you’re not trying to get hired because the office culture isn’t a good fit, still zip the lip! If you keep your head low and are respectful, at the minimum you can get a good recommendation letter out of it.

Don’t Be the Drunk Intern
 This goes for both genders so don’t think I’m stereotyping here. In the legal field there tends to be a ton of happy hours. Lawyers are notorious drinkers and partake in the drinking hole culture. Am I saying you should avoid these socials like the plague? Absolutely not! As mentioned above, your supervisors are also seeing if you’re the type of person that will fit in with the office. That being said, I would say keep it at a one drink per hour maximum. Nurse those drinks like you’re in an alcohol Sahara. Why? So you don’t look like a sloppy mess! While you may not be physically in the office, you’re still with your potential future co-workers. Always keep that in mind. Drinking lowers the mental defenses and you might say/do something that you wouldn’t while sober.  

While these all probably seem like common sense advice to you, you would be surprised at how one can easily fall into the traps. So don’t be “that” intern and kill it at your next job with these tips in mind!


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