If you're a paralegal, law student or recent graduate looking to gain experience at a law firm, you might be wondering, what do interns at law firms do?
Interning at a law firm can provide a launchpad for a successful law career as you build vital, real-world experience alongside legal professionals.
Understanding what's expected of you as an intern and impressing your superiors is crucial to cementing your future at the firm. Here, we'll explore the tasks you might complete and give advice on how to make a significant impact during your internship.
So, what do interns at law firms do?
It's much more than coffee-grabbing and document-sorting. Interning at a law firm is your chance to get a real taste of the legal world and gain priceless hands-on experience in a work environment.
However, if you have ambitions to cement a long-term future at your firm (or any other firm, for that matter), it's vital to understand what's expected of you and how to impress.
While the specifics will differ from firm to firm, here are a few tasks you may encounter as a law firm intern.
Legal research and analysis
One of the primary responsibilities of an intern at a law firm will typically be extensive legal research. The firm will have several ongoing cases at any given time, and it'll be your job to dig deep into case law, regulations, statutes and legal precedents to support the firm's case.
To conduct this task successfully, you'll need a keen eye for detail and the ability to synthesise large batches of complex information.
Drafting legal documents
Often an exciting task for a new intern, you'll likely be given the opportunity to draft legal documents such as contracts, memos and briefs.
While your work will be reviewed and edited by senior attorneys, it's still a prime opportunity to impress the longer-standing members of your firm.
Client interaction can differ from firm to firm and may depend on the capabilities you show early as an intern, but you may be given a chance to interact with clients.
Client tasks for interns can involve assisting in client meetings, taking notes or even participating in client interviews. If you interact with clients, ensure you communicate effectively and professionally to make a good impression.
As with most internships, you'll be expected to handle various administrative tasks, such as organising files and managing the calendars of associates and partners.
These tasks may seem mundane, but they're essential to the smooth operation of your firm. Handle them well and you'll impress.
How to impress your superiors
If you're looking to pursue a successful legal career and quickly take the next steps beyond an internship, it's essential to impress those above.
You've now got an idea of some of the things you may be expected to do as a law intern, but how can you truly stand out?
Proactivity and a strong work ethic
The litigation world is rarely forgiving when it comes to time. But, displaying a strong work ethic and being proactive under pressure is a surefire way to impress superiors.
Don't wait for instructions — anticipate what needs to be done, consistently meet deadlines and pay close attention to detail. Over time, your superiors will appreciate your reliability and commitment to work.
Sharpen your legal skills
Your time as an intern at a law firm can be incredibly valuable — if you use it right. These formative years can be the foundation for your entire career, so take advantage of your time as an intern to improve your legal skills wherever possible.
Consistently seek feedback from senior associates and actively address areas to improve.
This one goes without saying, but you should maintain a professional demeanour throughout your time at the firm. Dress appropriately for work, respect confidentiality and communicate effectively with colleagues and clients.
A lack of professionalism can undo any of the steps listed above — so although it seems obvious, it's worth emphasising its importance.
To truly stand out, you'll need to be innovative. The firm's partners and senior associates will likely have seen many interns step through the doors, so to give yourself the best chance of success, you can present forward-thinking solutions to influence the firm's day-to-day.
Embrace legal technology
Ensure you stay up-to-date on the latest legal technology trends and tools. It's an ever-changing litigation landscape, so identifying and presenting tools that could improve your firm can go a long way.
Solutions that can make a difference include document management systems, eDiscovery software, artificial intelligence or case management apps. Research these areas and present ideas to your superiors.
Identify areas where processes could be streamlined and efficiencies could be generated. Many firms are stuck in their ways and are often resistant to technology.
However, automating repetitive tasks or enhancing collaboration through digital tools can significantly impact a firm's day-to-day. You can make a real difference if you're the driver behind positive change.
Where to start with legal technology
Interning at a law firm is a valuable way to kickstart your career. But making a real impact is about more than just doing what's asked of you.
Innovation is a powerful tool; with some research, you can suggest ways to generate efficiencies across your firm.
RelativityOne is a tool many litigation professionals use to handle large amounts of data, creating time and money savings. If you'd like to learn more about this software, giving you an insight into the types of legal technology available today, click below.