The Summer Internship: Make or Break Your Law Career?

POSTED : August 19, 2021

All law students are aware of the summer internship, and that crazy competition that goes into these precious opportunities to get real-world law experience in the middle of your law school journey.

But do you ever find yourself wondering why there are all this rush and all this competition for the relatively few internship positions that are available? Do you ever wonder is it really worth it?

Do you really need an internship to get a good first job out for law school?

It is an interesting question, and let’s delve into this a bit and see if it’s the right decision for you to forego the internship, or whether an internship should absolutely be in your plan. Because quite honestly, the same answer doesn’t automatically apply to every law student.

Why an Internship?

Oh sure, everyone talks about getting an internship in a court, a law firm or ai a public-sector office like a city or district attorney or a public defender’s office. Ther are lots of benefits that come from having an internship:

  • Experience in a law office.
  • Opportunities to meet practicing attorneys and judges.
  • Networking opportunities.
  • Researching and writing briefs.
  • Participate in case preparation.
  • Get mentoring from a single or multiple partners.
  • Perhaps even sit in a courtroom as part of the legal team.

For many, an internship is vital not only to get experience that will help them hone in on a particular specialty, but they can also learn from that experience whether going into law is really the best choice for them. Law students can do many other things other than practice law, and an internship can be a great way to help make that determination.

In many respects, there is nothing like an internship for that experience that can be so valuable to a law student in what is a very competitive market each and every year.

Why NOT an Internship?

However, is it really so bad to swim against the stream, which seems to have all law students believe in the necessity of an internship to further their law careers?

If you decide not to have an internship in the summer, you should make sure you have a compelling reason to do so, and be able to articulate that to any prospective employers with whom you may interview as you finish your bar exam. While not everyone needs an internship to succeed, a prospective employer will expect to see one on your resume and if you don’t have one, you need to be prepared to talk about why you decide to be a salmon instead of a trout.

  • Personal or family issues (staying home to take care of a sick family member, or to guide the family through a death or divorce).
  • You decide to take a summer off from law and go on an adventure that you may not otherwise get to do for the next 40 years while you practice law.
  • You work on the family business during the summer, and the law degree is just to help with legal and regulatory issues that may arise when you take over the business.
  • You get an internship with a member of Congress or a state legislator, and you actually want to pursue a career in politics.

Your reason for not getting into an internship could also be because you just didn’t win the internship even though you interviewed for a good number of them. If your reason is something compelling like one of the examples above, then you can probably do well with your job interview in explaining why you didn’t have an internship – because each of these reasons could be that you didn’t want to have an internship.

If the reason you didn’t do an internship was because you wanted to but didn’t get one, then you have to be prepared for why you didn’t get it, or why didn’t you look hard enough? After all, if you think you want and need an internship, you probably should have been open-minded to apply to and research a wide variety of opportunities until you found one that would hire you.

Who Might Need an Internship

While having one of the reasons above for not having an internship could be compelling on its face, there is another issue to consider – the law school you are attending and its track record of placement.

No, not all law schools are the same. It is important that if you do want to go into the law profession, that you know very well about the reputation of your chosen law school before you decide to take that summer away from law.

If you are at a school that does not have a great record of placing graduates, or has a less-than-stellar reputation for preparing students for the profession, then getting an internship to prove that your worth and value exceeds the reputation of the school is likely going to make or break your budding career. Not only that, but you will have to have good to great grades at that school, and maybe be ready to provide a reason for attending that law school instead of a different one with a better reputation.

Who Could Get Away Without an Internship

On the other side of the coin, while there is no guarantee of this, but there are some law students who could still succeed without having an internship on their resume.

Of course, those who don’t plan to go into law, and instead plan to use their law degree for something else, may be worthwhile just to focus on whatever they want to do after they get out of school. But for those who do want to practice law, they may be able to get away without an internship if they have very good grades at a highly respected law school and perhaps might have gotten multiple offers to intern but made the conscious decision not to. A law student who got published while in school, or a student who took some time between undergrad and law school to work in the real world for a time, especially in an area that is related to law, could probably get by without an internship, especially if that real-world work results in good recommendations from supervisors who could articulate your work ethic and the duties you performed.

The Bottom Line

For most law students, the experience of an internship is invaluable. We would never discourage a law student from applying for, interviewing for, and ultimately landing an internship position, especially if that student actually wants to practice law upon graduation. But is an internship for everyone? No, and it’s partly due to the students’ make-up as much as to the place where they are working.

There has to be a good fit both ways, or the law student likely won’t study law, and the firm will lose a quality worker. Do your research about firms, do introspection about yourself to understand if an internship will have value to you, and work to find the right puzzle pieces to fit together so you will get a rewarding experience and your employer can be a great resource for you moving forward in your schooling and your career.

About The Author

Abraham Jaros, co-partner and founder of Jaroslawicz & Jaros PLLC, a is one of the top construction accident lawyers in NYC. He began his career over 40 years ago and remembers the struggle of finding which area of law to practice as if it were yesterday. During his career as a personal injury lawyer, he has tried hundreds of cases and won numerous multi-million dollar verdicts on behalf of his clients. When not in the courtroom he can be found writing to help inspire future lawyers everywhere.



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