10 Things to do When You Get an Internship at a Big Law Firm

This post is written by Aditya Shrivastava from team iPleaders

My third year of college was almost coming to an end. Seeing almost all my friends landing up internships in the top most law firms of the country made me a little nervous. Till now I had just interned with an NGO, a district court lawyer and a few smaller corporations, wherever I could manage to get a reference.

But I was determined to change the game now. After identifying a couple of references to push my CV, innumerable follow up calls, and almost settling for yet another mediocre internship, I finally got a call from one of the top 5 law firms of the country. My joy knew no bounds that day.

However, with no prior experience, I was not very sure if I could make the best use of my internship. This firm was notorious to hire student from a specific league of universities, and my lower ranked NLU sure wasn’t one of them.

All the interns were not just in their final or pre final years, they also belonged to the same list of universities which was sufficient to give me enough complex to jump out of the non-existent window of the interns room.

However, a week passed, so did another, and I was amongst the only 2 interns who were given an extension. A call back internship for the very next semester and another, I knew I did something right in the first attempt itself.

So, what is it that an intern must do to make the best use of this opportunity? I cannot give you a talisman but I could certainly give you certain tips, which might help you for the long run.

1. Research before you start

All the big law firms have various partners and practice area. You need to research before hand which partner is incharge of which team and which team is known to give better work, and feedback.

In the very same internship, where I saw various interns complaining within themselves about how they have been assigned the wrong team or how frustrating it is to work for a certain partner, a co-intern actually on her very first day made it absolutely clear to the HR that she is just going to work for the IPR team.

The HR for tried to pacify her on the first day and assigned her to a different team, but the next day she straightaway told her that she won’t work unless she is assigned with IPR team.

Now, I am not suggesting to go extreme and fight it out, just like she did. However, I am telling you to be sure of the fact that you are putting your feet in the right shoes and making sure that you are given an apt opportunity to make good use of.

2. Believe, “you are as good as them”

Remember that guy from the top NLU who has this air about himself to impress any associate that comes across him? Trust me, he knows as much as you do. He is going to google and use manupatra the same way you will.

There is nothing which is extraordinary about him, except that he prepared for clat a bit more than you did. Having interned at various top law firms I can tell you, that everyone in the interns room has got in the same way, unless you are extraordinary.  

However, it is natural for you to have certain complexes because, probably their university is ranked higher or they appear to be charming. Understand that all you need is some confidence and a way to present yourself. Get over that complex, go out and speak to everyone in your team.

Introduce yourself in the best way possible and ask them for work. Remember, no body says no to giving work to somebody who looks smart and presentable. Thus, even if you are sweating inside your suit, make sure that your face is dazzling with smile and confidence.

In case you still have doubts just like I did, then question yourself, what extra effort did you put in to make you stand out? In case you don’t know what to do, start like how I did.

Take up this course, to enhance your knowledge and practical skills. The least this course would do is give you enough legal and practical acumen to face most of the challenges a corporate firm poses in front of you.

3. Each work counts!

It’s your first day at work after the you are done with the formal introductions. You get a call from an associate, you are instantly lit up by the very thought of your first assignment.

Given your dearth of experience you assume it’s going to be challenging and you love that! You approach the table and you are immediately given a huge case file. You are nervous by looking at the mere size of it and you are told, “make a list of dates and events for this, please.” Your expectations fall flat. Understand each work counts.

There are people who even ruin such easy jobs, and are never entrusted with another responsibility again. Make sure every task you are assigned is completed to perfection so that you are assigned work for greater responsibility later.

4. Meet your Partner!

Most of the HRs are reluctant to introduce the interns to the partners for the reasons best known to them. However, this is one of the most important lessons you need to learn. Your chances of a call back or a pre-placement offer solely depends on this one step.

A co-intern went to meet the partner 15 days after his internship started. He walked up to her and introduced himself pleasantly. Her first question was when did you join? He nervously said 2 weeks back. To which her response was, “You joined two weeks back and you come to me now?” Such reactions can be a blow to your record and confidence.

Imagine it yourself, if you are managing a certain team will it be acceptable for you if a new joinee, be it an intern, is not introduced to you? However, do not stop at introductions alone, ensure that you seek constant work from them. They might not give you work for one or two instances, however, they would after some point of time and that will be your first test to pass.

5. Follow this golden rule while submitting your assignments

Most of the times you have found the answers to the questions that your associate has asked you. However, the associate might still not like your work. The reason for it is your presentation.

Associates are always running on deadlines and thus for them to read your research and edit is all the more frustrating. Follow these steps to ensure better quality of work :

  1. Keep your research brief, concise and to the point.
  2. Highlight the headings.
  3. Do not submit your work without footnotes.
  4. For every case that you have mentioned, take the print of the relevant case law and highlight the important points in it.

6. Get a cubicle near your team

A big law firm (unless it’s Amarchand with a different floor for interns), generally has an interns room and some interns who they can’t accommodate are made to sit in the cubicles.

In case you notice that any of the associate is not present, make sure to go ahead and ask your team to sit in that cubicle that day. In that way you could come in the eyes of the associates and partners, and show your dedication towards the work. Moreover it would save the associate the pain to call you over the phone, and they will be able to call you directly for work.

7. Come on time – Stay till late

Internships are like recruitment process which extend to 4 weeks or more. I don’t have to tell you the importance of coming on time. You need to be available in office before the most punctual associate of your team walks in. This is to ensure that in case there is any development in the case that you have been working on, you can get acquainted with it.

Associates or partners are just like us. Best thoughts strike them at the last hour. In my all 13 internships experience, I have realised that best work only comes after everyone has left.

Staying till late will not only present you as a hardworking individual but also get you the chance to lay your hands on most interesting and valuable work among all interns. Especially the partners, they tend to assign work once they are relatively free from their everyday rigmarole, which is generally after 7.

Even if you are out of work, stay back and look busy so that anyone who looks at you, understands that you are more dedicated than others.

8. Avoid taking leaves, do not say no to working on Sundays.

I understand that you have been working very hard throughout the week and have been eagerly waiting for this one Sunday where you could sleep till the sun sets down.

However, if due to any project you have been asked to stay back and work on Sunday, do that! This is your introduction to a standard corporate law firm life. Where, people work till 3:00 am even on a Sunday.

Moreover, that’s what you are here for too. You have taken up this internship to learn, grow and make a mark. If you cannot deal with such working conditions, I would recommend you to not take this internship or profession in the first case.

However, in the limited period of your internships, a leave might be fatal for you and an extra Sunday can get you brownie points.

9. Attend as many client meetings/ court visits/ conferences as you can.

During an internship, if you have worked hard enough on a certain case, an associate is not hesitant to take you on a client meeting or case proceeding. If you happen to be lucky enough, never say no to them and attend as many of them as possible.

This will not only give you a golden opportunity to learn law more practically than ever, but also ensure that your rapport in the eyes of the partner grows high.

10.  Be associate’s friend and stay in touch

You could be just like me. A shy, reserved and high on self esteem. However, remember that won’t lead you anywhere. Try to get into the good books of the associate.

By that I don’t mean to get clingy and annoy the associate, it just means that when your associate permits it, being friends with them, going for tea with them and occasional hanging out will only help you be in better terms, and that would give them an impression that you are as much part of the team.

Staying in touch post internship would be indicative of your interest to continue with the firm, and they can probably recommend you to the partner for consideration.

Remember, professional behaviour, quest for knowledge, diligence and hard work might not always get you a job. But even if it gives you recognition, appreciation, another internship or recommendation for a better place, consider that your internship was successful.

All the luck!

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