Jingle Bells, law students… Jingle all the way (to your internships).
No, these are not the festive Christmas bells, we are not even past Diwali yet. These are the bells to remind you that the festive season of law school is around the corner and it is time you start preparing for the holidays (prepare to work, I mean :P)
October is halfway out of our grasp and this means there are approximately 2 months left for you to start your internship (or the annual Delhi trip). For some people, it is 2.5 and for others 1.5 so let’s take the average. In any case, there is not much time left for you to start the practical aspect of your legal education.
Internship accounts for a single credit in most of the colleges, being the most important part of the legal education, it is sad to see it not getting the weight it deserves. No matter how much time you invest in learning a subject, understanding from practical use is unparalleled.
For those who intend to pursue litigation or corporate law, their work will revolve mostly around drafting petitions and agreements. The standard drafting and pleading course in colleges do not cover even a small portion of the documents that are drafted in offices on a daily basis.
This is where internships come into play. The most important of all, something which no law college can teach a law student irrespective of their career choice is that internships teach them how life is going to be after law school. The life at the office, the difficulty of maintaining work-life and dealing with colleagues, bosses and clients.
This is not a part of any syllabus in the country and therefore it makes quality internships empirical for every law student.
Now that we have established how important internships are, let us also focus on the things you should keep in mind while applying for an internship.
Area of interest
Before you open Pandora’s box and send a billion applications to a trillion law firms (we wish there were as many), decide what is your area of interest. Since our educational system gives us a very brief window to intern, there is only so much we can learn (that too if you are sincere).
Area of interest should be a subject in which you have a strong command. What does strong command mean? It means that not only are you familiar with the current act but also it’s past, the developments through the years, landmark cases with facts and opinion of judges, the future plans of the government regarding the statute.
This is the beginning of defining strong command over a subject. There are also essential elements like not getting bored even after hours and hours of reading related to it. You should be aware of the top five firms which work in this area and the best practitioners in the field. Connecting with them over LinkedIn is highly recommended.
Area of interest needs to be communicated to the party on the other side of the table. Sadly, they will not always be available to interview you. This hurdle is crossed by writing quality research papers (original research) and getting it published in a nationally or internationally acclaimed journal.
This will benefit you when you send the link to one of the top practitioners in the field and she/he sees the name of the journal and the title, that’s where they decide whether they will spend the next few minutes reading it. If they like it then not only do you have a mentor but also unlimited opportunities waiting for you.
Take time to decide your area of interest.
Office to join
Every year thousands of law students send out internship applications without spending even 5 minutes on their applications.
They do not think about the pros and cons of joining an office or the type of work they intend to do or skills they want to hone. They see a random list of 40-45 top law firms in India and shoot emails to almost all of them.
There is always the right office for you and many wrong offices for you. For eg: if you wish to make a career in IPR, one should focus on applying at Anand and Anand or Remfry & Sagar.
These are the law firms which primarily deal with intellectual property rights. There may be other firms which are bigger in size, name or revenue but one should not choose a boutique law firm over a specialised law firm just because it is bigger in size.
It should not end here, one should also be sure of the branch of the firm where they want to intern. This way, they can learn from the best practitioners of the firm.
Basically, focus on the learning and not on the name of the law firm you want to join.
Streamline your CV
The specialisation is important in the competitive world of today. While it is an acceptable approach to intern at various offices and in different fields to know and explore what they offer, it is better to have a planned approach.
You should plan your internships in order to streamline your CV. Once you have decided what your area of interest is, the next step is to start working towards making it stronger in that field. It involves a few activities that you do in law school while the session is on and a few things you do during the internship.
The things you do during a session are obvious, such as studying the subject in depths and ensure learning from different sources to broaden your thoughts. It is also advised to publish your work in reputed journals.
The next step is, decide on 2-3 firms in which you have to intern through the next 2 years. Choose the smallest in size and easiest to score first and use it as a stepping stone into getting offers from the other firms. If you work at firm A and do your best, this will cause your seniors to notice you and by the art of networking and building on it for a little while, request them to help you with your internship.
Also, from your teachers, seniors, peers and mentors, learn about the necessary skills that one needs to practice in that area of law after graduation. During your internship, complete your given assignments and make sure to make room in the schedule to learn those things which you have gathered.
Leard to draft as many agreements as you can.
This is the tricky part. It is also where most of the law students make the most mistakes. As I have mentioned before, below are the most common mistakes
- Bulk applications from a random top 40-50 law firms list
- weight to name of the firm over the work of the firm
- Weight to boutique law firm over specialised law firms
- Lack of research before applying
These are the basic blunders which every law student should avoid. There are a few basic things one can do to drastically improve the chances of being selected at a good law firm.
Research: Before you apply to a law firm, research about it. Ask a few basic questions like
What is the speciality of the law firm?
Who are the best practitioners at the law firm?
Is my area of interest a part of their practice?
Does my CV have the internships and accolades to land an internship there?
How many interns do they take?
How many internships get converted into job offers?
Have I interned with anyone or know anyone who can recommend me there?
Then there are the basics which you have to take care of.
- Apply well in advance
- Customize your CV according to the law firm
- Customize your cover letter according to the law firm
- Write a short but sharp email
- Find the right person to mail
Much like Santa brings gifts to children who have been good and coal to those who have been bad, firms give internships to those whose applications are nicely crafted and well the rest is self-explanatory.