By Melissa Woodson
While coursework is critical in law school, it is often a summer internship that leads to your first job in the field. For this reason, it can be as important to perform well and network efficiently during the summer months as during the rest of the year. The days of summer vacation are long over, but a good internship will be a rewarding experience where you take on your first real responsibilities in law and make lasting connections with others in the field.
Here are a few tips to guide you along the way:
1. Communicate Your Expectations to Your Supervisor
At the beginning of the summer, you should reflect carefully on your goals and expectations for the internship. Share those thoughts with your supervisor both as a reality check and to establish a shared understanding. Your goals and expectations may evolve over the summer, but if the internship is a good match for you, your supervisor will provide pathways to meet them.
2. Actively Seek Responsibility
Part of a high-quality summer internship experience is being assigned to significant projects and working hard to complete them. You won’t necessarily be handed meaningful work right off the bat; you may have to petition for it. You have a short time-span to demonstrate competence, receive responsibility, then live up to your employer’s expectations. Hit the ground running to make the most of it.
3. Work Well With Others
Competition among interns is fairly common, but it is best to keep things friendly. Collaboration is generally more productive than sideswiping and may open up further networking possibilities down the line. If your employer sees you treating others in a cutthroat manner, he or she may be less likely to trust you as a team player.
4. Keep Your Eyes Open
Even if your responsibility is more limited than you might like, the opportunity to observe the workings of a legal firm, courtroom or district attorney’s office can be invaluable. A surprising amount can often be learned simply from watching the way legal professionals operate, learning about how the organizations run and what their unwritten rules are.
5. Network at Every Opportunity
Many summer interns hope for a job offer from the organization they work with, but many don’t get them. It’s important to understand that this isn’t an entirely negative outcome. A solid recommendation or even an introduction to a strategic contact can easily translate into your first job offer after graduation. Connect with as many people as you can in the office, at networking events and whenever else the opportunity presents itself.
Ultimately, one of the biggest factors in what you get out of your summer internship is what you put into it. If you treat this opportunity like a vacation, you’re going to return to school empty handed. But if you show up each day enthusiastically prepared for work and treat the job as though it were a long-term commitment, you are much more likely to receive an offer or a positive recommendation that can pave the way to future opportunities.
Melissa Woodson, community manager for Washington University in St. Louis’ @WashULaw, a top-tier online llm degree in U.S. Law. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.