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This article is written by Gareema Ahuja, an academician based in Delhi and working in LawSikho. Here she discusses the common mistakes made by law students while applying for internships.

We law students spend 5 years or 3 years in law school assuming that we are getting prepared to face the real world. We think that we will work for a law firm and earn lakhs of rupees in the future.

We get inspired by the famous show ‘Suits’ and decide this is what we want to do.

We read about Ram Jethmalani or any famous lawyer and think this is what we want to do.

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Then we dream of buying a car, house, expensive clothes, perfumes, watches, shoes, etc. All this is dependent on the five years we are giving to the law school. I call this phase as expectations from life.

Now the next phase is the reality. Where it is difficult to find a  job or even if found you are not paid more than 15000 – 20000 a month. It seems the Uber drivers, chai wallahs, and carpenters are earning more than you!

This is because law school does not teach the practical skills required to actually do the work a lawyer has to do. I was a law teacher myself, and I can assure you that it is not even possible to teach those practical things in a law school that you need to learn because law schools have to follow an archaic syllabus set by a regressive body called BCI. Also, the majority of the law teachers simply do not know what is actually happening in the industry because BCI banned law teachers from practicing law.

How can we teach you out of syllabus things that we do not even know anything about? So you graduate completely unprepared for the real legal industry. You may know some sections and case laws, but you have no idea about how to actually get the work of the client done.

Let’s take an example. We study the law of contract in our first or second year. That’s great. But do we learn how to draft a contract? No law firm is going to hire a person just to know the essentials of a valid contract or some sections or case laws and pay you lots of money for that. One obviously need to know how to draft contracts, and that is what will get you clients and your fees.

How do you plan to learn that? You are left to your own devices by law schools for that.

Let’s take another example. We study CPC in college.  However, is knowing the sections sufficient? Even if you get the highest marks in CPC, do you know how to draft a legal notice or reply to a legal notice or draft an application for the injunction? How are you going to learn these things? On the job? In that case, your salary will reflect your lack of real-life skills.

How do you use your time? You have a lot to do. Most law students fail to capitalize on their time in law school, and while away big opportunities for developing oneself to be a good lawyer.

What are the things you can do to ensure that you are using your time judiciously and when the expectation phase gets over the reality is not harsh?

I recommend writing blogs, internships, doing online courses (where one learns the actual practical skills not just gets a certificate to mention in the CV), dealing with real cases by apprenticing with lawyers round the year, building a network, learning new skills even outside legal skills.

Out of all these things, one critical thing would be internships. A lot depends on the kind of internships you bag and perform well in.

There are 5 years in law college. Or 3 years. It is enough to do all these things if you plan well. Great support could be having a mentor or a coach who is guiding you throughout the ‘expectation from life’ phase. And your chance of getting a mentor from an internship is quite high if you do things right.

The internship is important because it gives exposure and networking opportunity. It helps in choosing the actual area of interest. Sometimes, it can help you to learn practical skills.

Internship teaches us how to behave in an office, teamwork, value of time, reporting to seniors, using important software – basically helps in overall development.

Important factors we should consider while choosing an internship

  • whether the internship will give an opportunity to figure out a career choice
  • whether you will be able to learn from your supervisors
  • will you be making an impact
  • will you be enhancing your skills
  • will you be experiencing something new

Make a clear plan about what you want to learn from your internship. You should keep revisiting and ticking off what all have you already learned, and ask your mentor or supervisor for support to learn the remaining skills in your list. Remember that a 30-day internship is quite short, and you can learn very few skills in such a short time. Try to go for longer internships.

I am the internship manager at LawSikho, which is one of my many responsibilities. We get over 500 emails asking for internship in busy months. It is difficult to even open all of them, forget replying! Unfortunately, most applications betray a clear lack of understanding of what it takes to get an internship.

Too many applications are full of errors!

As a law teacher and mentor to many law students, I decided to write down about all the mistakes I see very often that frustrates me!

If you are not getting good internships, a big reason could be such mistakes. Please go through the list below and make sure that you never make such mistakes.

What are the common mistakes a person makes while applying for an internship  

#1

Sending the same email to multiple organisations

One should apply to many organisations for an internship. Relying on only one organisation might not be the right approach. But sending the same email to all organisations is not correct. You should customize your mail according to the organization and make sure that you do not send the wrong mail to the wrong organization, and certainly not apply by keeping lots of emails on cc: or bcc:. It just shows that you are lazy, unprofessional and not at all serious for the internship. Also, the organisation you are sending it to will probably not reply back.

Also, the email should not be a forwarded email. For example, I sent an email to XYZ organisation and I am forwarding the same to ABC. This is absolutely not ok.

#2

Sending a resume without a proper professional cover letter, or adding cover letter as an attachment and other oddities

Sending an email without a subject or a cover letter, only attaching your CV doesn’t help. You are sending your CV by email, and if there are mistakes or oddities in the mail, nobody will take your application seriously. Please follow rigorous professional standards while mailing. The language also has to be error-free.

The covering email is very important. It is basically the email that you send with your CV attached. It helps the recipient to decide whether it is worth taking a look at your CV when they are receiving too many CVs. You can highlight your qualifications and skills in the covering email. It might be time-consuming to write a cover letter and most of the law students do not know how to write one. But avoiding the labour of learning how to write one is not good.

The resume should always be shared in the pdf format and the name of the file should be your name. Sharing the resume with a file name ‘document’ or ‘CV’  could be taken as a sign of being ignorant and unprofessional.

The resume should be an updated one. If you are in your third year the resume should not state you are in your first year.

When applying for an internship ensure your username and even the email address is professional. Do not apply from email ids like [email protected] or usernames like Paagal Diwana Rahul etc. This is absolutely not acceptable, still, I see many students making such rookie mistakes.

#3

Not specifying the duration of the internship

Students randomly apply for the internship without specifying the duration they want to intern for. If someone writes the summer internship it could be in the month of May, June or July. An organization might not have available slots in the month of  May or June but might have it for July. Do you think they would respond asking you the duration of the internship and then process your application when they receive at least 50 applications in a day?

Please make it clear during which days you are available to intern.

#4

Forgetting to attach the CV in the email

Some students forget to attach their resume but call to follow up! What are they expecting? A reply from the internship manager stating you forgot to attach your CV. Unfortunately, people are busy, and nobody reads your internship applications as a full-time job. People will just ignore your emails if you make mistakes and if they get many such mails.

Kindly take responsibility for your application being perfect and something that the internship manager can easily respond to.

#5

Not completing the task on time

When you apply for an internship, you might be expected to perform certain tasks for selection. At LawSikho, we tell students to write an article and give them one week to submit it. Not completing it on time, then calling up at 10 PM in the night or on a festival and asking for an extension is very unprofessional. It shows that you are not serious about the internship or you do not respect the other person or maybe you do not value our time.

There could be genuine reasons due to which you could not submit on time. Ask for an extension on an email stating the reason or call the person on working days during working hours.

#6

Following up at the wrong time

Once you send an application following up is important. But following up every day or following up within 24 hours of sending the application is not good. The person might have other important tasks to complete in office and replying to internship applications is not the priority.,

You could follow up once a week. Find out better ways of following up instead of simply calling, write a follow-up email. It is usually not advisable to follow up on LinkedIn. Please do not follow up for your friends, let them do it themselves. I received a call yesterday from somebody. She said, “Ma’am, I have got a reply to my application but my friend did not and we want to intern together.” As an internship manager, this is not something I am concerned about, and such requests show you in poor light.

I would advise that you intern without your friends because you will be able to network more. If you join with a friend you will probably be busy talking to her and not make new friends. You need to step out of your comfort zone.

#7

Making grammatical errors in the application

Another disaster which law students do is making grammatical errors in the cover letter or simply copying it from some website. If you copy a template from some website ensure you are reading it and editing it thoroughly as per your achievements. The font should be uniform throughout and there should not be irregular spacing. If you can’t even write a mail without making a mistake, why would anyone want to take you as an intern?

Also remember the Hindi proverb: Nakal ke liye akal chahiye.

#8

Research about the organization you are applying to

I receive so many applications where iPleaders is spelled as IP leaders or LawSikho is spelled as Law sikho. People write that they want to intern with our non-existent “esteemed law firm”. Do I want to give internships to people who are so careless? If you do not know the name of the organization or the work they do, why do you want to intern there? And why should they give you the internship?

If you can show that you understand what the organization does and if you can state in your covering mail how you can help the organization, that increases your chances by manifold.

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