CPDO: Ten Tips for Acing Your First Week at Your Internship

By Jocelyn Salvatori, Assistant Director of Career and Professional Development, & Matthew Lab, Director of Professional Development 

Jocelyn Salvatori

Are you starting a new internship this month?  Or are you returning to the same internship after being away for a bit?  Here are some tips to make the best first impression, or a continued good impression, as a law clerk.  Maybe some of these things will sound obvious to you, but try not to roll your eyes because employers are always reminding us to remind you about these very same issues. Also scroll to the bottom for more specific guidelines for writing assignments.

1. Treat every internship as an important part of your career development, whether you are working for a law firm, government office, or non-profit.  Sometimes students think they don’t have to work hard and impress their supervisors if it’s just a volunteer position, but every position you take on as a law student can be pivotal for your future life as a lawyer.

2. Stick to the schedule agreed upon with your supervisor and obviously be on time. If you will be late or need to change the hours for work, let your supervisor know with a phone call or a timely email (not a text message).

3. Arrive to work with a good attitude and wear professional attire.

4. Each day you are at the office, be 100% present and focused on your work.

5. Be friendly and polite.  Don’t gossip or get involved in office politics. Also don’t mix politics/religion with work.

6. Have access to a pen and paper at all times.  You never know when you will be given an assignment.

7. If you do not like the assignment you have been given, work even harder to do a good job. Hopefully you will like the next assignment.

8. Always clarify and confirm the nature of the assignment before leaving the office, by summarizing the assignment back to the supervising attorney: “So what you want is XYZ and you need this by Monday. Is this correct?”

9. Turn in your best work every single time.  Employers don’t have time for errors and typos.  Check your work more than once.

10. Keep a log of your work, so you can remember what to include in your resume. Some employers also require accounting of hours to earn school credit.

Work Assignments: Questions to Ask

  1. Do you want a written response?
  2. What is the jurisdiction for this case or matter?
  3. Where can I find the complete file? Which materials should I review for background/context (e.g., the case file, prior correspondences, etc.)?
  4. Do you have a model or a sample of the contract/shareholders’ agreement/ground lease, etc.?
  5. Are there any materials that you think I should look at first? Code section? Practice guide?
  6. Who will be the audience for this document? Supervising attorney, the client, etc.? The distinction of who is your audience is very important.
  7. Are there procedural rules or standards that affect the approach I should take? For example, a complaint and demurrer address allegations, whereas a motion for summary judgment also requires admissible evidence in support of your arguments.
  8. How should I conduct my research, online or manually?
  9. Is there a page length/limit? Many motions have page limits, and many attorneys prefer even shorter written work. Ask to save yourself time.
  10. How much time should I spend on this project? This question saves you time from spending twenty hours researching a particular issue if the assigning attorney believes it should only be a two-hour assignment.
  11. When do you need to see/hear my findings, brief, etc.?

Please stop by the Career and Professional Development Office (second floor of the 350 classroom building) or make an appointment with a career advisor if you have any questions or concerns relating to your internship.

Contact Jocelyn Salvatori at jsalvatori@cwsl.edu. Contact Matthew Lab at mlab@cwsl.edu.

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