When you go to law school, you may expect that simply going to class will be enough to prepare you to be a lawyer. Classes can teach you about the law and transform the way you absorb and analyze information. However, sitting in a classroom can’t provide you with hands-on experience that can take your education to the next level.
Internships are an invaluable part of any law school experience. These temporary job opportunities allow you to take what you’ve learned and apply it to real-world situations. This experience can be incredibly helpful as you search for a job in the legal field.
Here are three reasons why you should spend your summers interning during law school.
There’s No Substitute for Real-World Experience
Law school classes can provide a great foundation for your legal career. You can learn a lot from your professor and fellow students. Debates and discussions during class can teach you to absorb, digest, and analyze information in new ways. However, there are limits to how much you can learn about the law while sitting in a classroom.
It’s necessary to take the things you’ve learned in class and apply them to real-world situations. You learned about negligence in your Torts class, but you may not really understand how complex the issue is until you dive head-first into a personal injury case. Seeing an experienced attorney handle the issue first-hand can provide a lot of perspective and help you understand how the legal process really works.
This real-world experience will come in handy when you’re searching for a permanent position after law school. Employers often prefer candidates who have some experience working in the field. This includes short-term internships where you are given a crash-course in what it means to be an attorney. Your experience will give you an advantage and make it easier for you to acclimate to life as a lawyer.
You Can Cultivate Important Networking Relationships
It can be tough to find a job after graduation. You may be one of hundreds of applicants for a particular position. During an internship, you’ll have the opportunity to network and establish new relationships. These relationships – with other interns, attorneys, and employers – can be invaluable throughout your legal career.
Your new contact can even help you land a job in a tough job market. New friends may know of an opening. Former supervisors may recall how hard you worked as an intern and forward your information to other attorneys in the area. Employers may even be so happy with your work that they decide to extend a permanent offer once you’ve graduated. The bottom line: the relationships you establish during an internship can be just as important as the experience you gain.
Internship Experience Can Help You Narrow Down a Field of Choice
You may go to law school with a pretty good idea of the type of law you want to practice. Interning with a firm or organization in that specific area of the law can help to confirm or deny your suspicions. It’s very possible that your own personal experience working in a particular field may cause you to reconsider your career goals. On the other hand, immersing yourself in that area of the law may simply emphasize that you’ve made the right choice.
For example, imagine that you go to law school in the hopes of becoming a family law attorney. You love your family law classes and think that you’ll be a great advocate for families in their moment of need. After your first year of law school, you decide to take an internship with a prestigious family law firm.
Throughout the summer, you realize that you learned about divorce and custody disputes in a sterilized environment. You discussed the facts, issues, and debated the result of numerous cases. However, you weren’t privy to how those cases affected the clients. It can be shocking to witness first-hand how a divorce or custody battle can impact your client and their family. This may cause you to reconsider your desire to become a divorce attorney. Or, your internship experience may simply fuel your desire to be an advocate and make a difference in your clients’ lives.
Internships can give you invaluable experience, expand your network of legal contacts, and help to open your eyes to how the law really works. At the end of the day, the things you learn during your internship will complement your traditional classroom education. This will give you an incredible foundation as you begin your legal career.