The best legal internship will allow you to gain real-world experience in a legal setting, and it ideally will include exposure to the kind of legal setting in which you want to work. In some cases, an internship is required of students graduating from legal secretarial or paralegal schools and law schools. Among the legal internships available are summer clerkships, judicial internships, legal clinics and programs that allow you to perform work pro bono, or free.
In addition to gaining experience, consider what else you hope to get from an internship. Some internships will allow you to earn school credit. Some internships pay, and others do not. The best legal internship will allow you to work directly with faculty members or practicing attorneys and sitting judges. Your college most likely will be the best source for helping you find an internship.
A legal clinic internship will allow you to get legal experience from within a college law school. These clinics allow students to utilize their classroom knowledge in everyday legal situations. Like other internships, this is done under the supervision of an attorney or an appropriately qualified faculty member. Common cases include child abuse, real estate and working with the elderly or disadvantaged.
A summer clerkship often is the best legal internship for those hoping to get an opportunity with a large law firm. Clerkships also are offered at mid-size to small firms as well. These internships often are very competitive, and students with outstanding academic performance have the advantage. Many clerkships are offered during the summer, but some are offered during the school year.
If your summer clerkship is in a law firm, you probably will be doing a lot of writing and research. Part of the reason for this is the short-term nature of the work. A law firm often will be reluctant to offer long-term and highly complicated work to a summer intern.
Another type of legal internship is a judicial clerkship. This opportunity allows you to work with a judge, giving you an up-close view of how trials and the court system work. If you are planning to practice litigation or appellate law, this setting will be ideal for you. A judicial clerkship position often requires a lot of research and writing. It also can be a strong addition to your résumé.
Expect competition to be strong if you are vying for a legal internship as a judicial clerkship. You generally need an exceptional academic record and strong writing and researching skills. Duties include reviewing written records, briefing the judge and making recommendations on appeals.
For legal secretaries and paralegals, an internship placement typically is arranged by the college or technical school. Similar to other legal internships, this can be a paid or unpaid position. If you are seeking a legal secretary or paralegal internship, it is ideal to find an internship in the field of law that interests you the most. Some of these internships also can lead to job offers.