Ambitious undergraduates who are anxious about law school and the career beyond are stuck in something of a holding pattern while in college. Although some bachelor's degrees prepare graduates to hit the ground running in their given industry, students planning to become lawyers must wait until law school to learn the specialized skills that are required to be an attorney. For undergrads looking to get a taste of the lawyer life, pre-law internships can often satisfy this appetite for advocacy.
It's not uncommon for pre law undergrads to have grandiose ideas of what it means to be a lawyer. While standing in front of a judge and arguing a thoroughly researched point will pump adrenaline through the body of most lawyers, pre-law internships may not hold much glitz and glamour for undergraduates contemplating becoming the next Atticus Finch. However, there's a lot that has to happen behind the scenes before a court appearance can even occur, and these steps can be introduced to undergrads during a pre-law internship.
Building Skills and Gaining Insight
Pre-law internships often consist of tasks like filing, scanning, and some light document review. Although these tasks probably won't whip pre law students into a frenzy, there are important elements to these routine activities that can shed some light on what a career in the legal industry is often like on the day-to-day level.
In fact, internships provide skills that are often rarely taught in law school. Because law school is extremely case law intensive, most schools fail to prepare students with an understanding of how to actually run a law office. By seeing the inner workings of a law office and witnessing the day-to-day of a lawyer's life, it can sway a prospective law student's decision about whether or not they want to pursue a Juris doctor while providing them with a brief understanding of the business behind the law.
Another benefit of pre-law internships is the connections made during your time in the legal setting. All lawyers know that networking is essential to the success of an attorney. Starting off your career on the right foot with a pre-law internship will help you build that network before it's even really needed. Whether it is for client referrals, or for assistance with competency on a legal issue, the people in your legal network will certainly come in handy down the road if you do decided to attend law school and become a lawyer.
Balancing an Internship with Your Studies
While getting a jumpstart in the legal industry with a pre-law internship may sound like a great way to boost your law school resume, there are some downsides that should also be considered. At the end of the day, most law schools will provide very little weight to an internship and focus mostly on GPA and LSAT scores when making admissions decisions. If a pre-law internship becomes detrimental to your undergraduate GPA, it might be a better idea to focus on your studies at hand so that you can get into the best law school possible.
Determining What Area of Law Is Right for You
Deciding what area of law to practice after graduating law school can be easy for some and troublesome for others. For those born to fight for criminal injustices in indigent communities, becoming a public defender is probably an obvious choice. However, many law students and some lawyers figure out the type of law they want to practice as they go. Pre-law internships can provide undergrads with experience in a variety of areas of law, allowing them to find their niche early and focus on it throughout their legal career.
Whether your interests lie in civil rights, SEO corporate law, preventing injustice in the criminal system, or some other niche area of the law, the variety of pre law internships available is quite extensive. Underrepresented communities are also provided with extra opportunities to get a quick glance of life in law. Most offices offering legal internships have summer internships as well as internships during the school year. This creates several opportunities for pre-law undergrads to sample multiple dishes at the buffet of law before even entering law school.
Pre-law internships are an excellent way to become immersed in the legal industry before taking the dive into law school. While the extent of what you'll learn during a pre-law internship may be limited, the lessons that are available can help you decided whether or not a career in the law is right for you. Learn more about what to expect from law school by checking out the resources at FindLaw for Law Students.