Internship takeaways from 1L summer

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Makenzie Way, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Every freshly minted 2L waltzes back on campus with a summer’s worth of work experience and a handful of stories to tell. So, let me share mine! I had the privilege of working at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) as an Equal Justice America Fellow in the housing and benefits department. And while I had no particular interest in housing or benefits law, I nevertheless came away from the internship extremely satisfied.

Here are my main takeaways for getting the most out of your 1L summer when it rolls around.

Location, Location, Location

Your career planning office will likely tell you that your 1L summer is the year you can do anything. It’s true but know your limitations. It’s great to work abroad if you’re planning to work abroad, or in a big market like NYC upon graduation. If you’re targeting a smaller market, find summer employment in that area. Here are a list of reasons:

  1. Networking 

    It is easier and/or possible when you’re located in your target area. This is important regardless of whether you’re targeting a big or small market. However, it’s important for small markets where associate positions are more competitive.

  2. OCI

    Interviewers from small markets also notice where you spent your summer. In every single interview, I was asked: “why Boston?” Since I’d spent the summer there was a huge plus in proving my interest in the city.

  3. Future Planning

    Also made easier when you’re located in your post-graduation target area. Knowing I wanted to live in Boston after graduation I utilized my weekends to explore areas where I might want to live after graduation. Likewise, when attending networking events I was able to make note of commute times, neighborhoods nearby, and other local resources which helped me narrow my bid list for OCI.

  4. Face Time 

    Time with your significant other, friends and family also largely depends on where you are located. Your summer internship is no walk in the park. You often work long hours so you’re free time normally falls on the weekend. If you know you have family obligations, weddings to attend, or some other important events then it’s worth considering how your summer internship location will impact your travel abilities. For instance, I was only an hour flight from home. I was able to make it back for a friend’s baby shower.

Internship Preparedness

You need to be prepared with the required documents and requested materials when entering the office on the first day. Though, it doesn’t end there. You need to always be prepared to take notes, talk about your ongoing cases, or assist your supervising attorney. So how do you do that?

  • Always, always, ALWAYS have a notepad and pen.

    While you may think you’re just dropping a memo off, there’s a good chance you’ll receive feedback or a second assignment.

    • Side Note: If your supervising attorney likes to use your pen to edit your work like mine did, I suggest always having a second pen so you can take notes too.
  • Make sure you thoroughly review every case you have before unit meetings, client meetings, or really any meeting.

    You might expect to only talk about two out of five cases, or simply be sitting in, but you really never know when you’ll be asked to present.

  • If your supervising attorney gives you research do it promptly and take notes!

    Chances are they’re assigning you reading because the information will be essential when you become more active in the cases. You don’t want to get stuck re-reading because you forgot to take notes the first time around.

  • Always review your notes after meeting with clients.

    Often clients will throw a lot of details at you … most time in some unorganized fashion. If you simply throw your notes in the client folder without reviewing you’ll likely be confused two weeks later when you need to refresh yourself on the timeline. If on the other hand, you take 10 minutes to review your notes and draft up a coherent timeline of events, you’ll thank yourself later.

  • When/if you meet with opposing counsel, clients, etc., make sure you have all required documents and a few extras.

    When meeting to review a large file I suggest you tab everything so it’s easy to find during the meeting!

View Everything as a Learning Experience

Life as a summer intern can easily become overwhelming. You might hand in a memo and get it back only to see a page full of red edits, causing you to feel defeated. Keep in mind the purpose of your 1L summer is to learn – your supervising attorney understands that so most of their critiques are aimed at improving your skills, not a result of them undervaluing you.

Summer programs are specifically designed to teach you certain skills. Your office will likely arrange for you to interact with clients, do some form of legal writing, observe court or some type of negotiation, and take part in at least one engaging case. The learning opportunities don’t stop with the formal programming though. I for one learned an excessive amount of case-specific, attorney tips, and just general professionalism from my supervising attorney. I also learned a good amount of useful technical tips from the office’s fantastic paralegals and professional staff members. Main point: don’t limit your learning “resources” to your supervising attorney and formal summer programming.

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