internship at a top law firm

This blog post on how can you get an internship at a top law firm is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, Co-founder and CEO at iPleaders.

I get these questions all the time. On phone, on email, on or iPleaders blog. Interns, students and even relatives of professional contacts get in touch with me with this same question. I am afraid even I dealt with it for some time when I was in college. How can I get an internship in one of the big law firms? To be precise, in one of these: SAM, CAM, AZB, JSA, Trilegal, Luthra & Luthra, Khaitan (in no particular order).

Emailing doesn’t work. They get just too many applications. I doubt they process all of them. It’s probably an impossible task. Calling doesn’t work like it used to many years back. They can’t entertain thousands of calls every day. They are forced to not answer any internship related calls apart from telling the email id where one should apply.

So what can you do?

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Get an internship through your college internship cell

One way to get an internship in one of these places is to go through the official internship committee of your college. If your college has to pedigree, that is. Only a few top National Law Universities have placement cells that have existing relationship with law firms and can get internship for some of the top performers in every class at the top law firms. However, most of the students from even top law schools never score an internship with these law firms.

Interestingly, it is not very difficult for an internship cell to reach out to a few big law firms and through influential partners to get the law firm to agree to take a few interns, but most don’t take any action towards this. It may not be enough for students to approach a firm, it usually takes the college authorities and professors to take action towards it. The private colleges that succeed in getting good recruitment for their students make a lot of effort towards building good relationships with the industry. This includes inviting industry people, big and not so big to the campus regularly, asking them to give lectures and seeking their help in building the placement system to benefit the students. It’s not a very difficult thing, but most colleges surprisingly do not do it, probably because not doing so does not affect them at all. However, when the management does not take initiative, at least students should organize and take such initiatives.


Get an internship through an introduction

Another very easy way to get an internship is through a good introduction or a recommendation from someone who is well placed to influence a partner at the law firm. It could be an important client, another respected lawyer inside or outside the firm with a sufficient influence or weight of authority, a law teacher who has earned the respect of a partner at the law firm, or an influential public authority like at income tax officer or a powerful ministry official firms feel the need to oblige.

No point cribbing about how unfair the world is, it is actually not. It is not easy to be recommended by people is such positions, and they would not do it too many times. So it has to be a really close personal relationship to earn a recommendation of this type, or you need to somehow impress a person in that position who is sufficiently convinced that you deserve the effort for them to pick up a phone or open the email to write in a line recommending you.

This is very important, and most people do not even try to earn such a recommendation. This kind of recommendation is actually not very difficult to get, if you put in the right kind of effort in the right places.

A friend of mine from law school went on to intern at a top UK law firm. How? He was arguing in a moot, and he did so well, one of the judges was mighty impressed and told him to keep in touch. He did that. He sent several articles he wrote on arbitration reforms required in India to the person, who was an arbitration partner at the law firm, and asked for his comments. Later that year, when my friend sent a mail asking the law firm partner what should he do to get a vacation scheme (a fancy name for internship in UK law firms) in a UK law firm, the partner, who himself had taken on the role of a mentor by then, guided him on where to apply and even put in a word for him.

Back when I was working in Trilegal Mumbai for a bit, one of my super seniors from NUJS who was a senior associate at Trilegal Bangalore office called me up to ask about a particular junior at NUJS who was in her 3rd year at that time. She has written some amazing stuff on outsourcing law, he said, and asked for my opinion about her. Of course, I had instigated this junior to write about outsourcing law, and I agreed that she is very promising. Would you surprised to hear that the Senior Associate wrote a mail to the HR recommending that this particular junior be given an internship, although she was just in her 3rd year and Trilegal usually considered people from NUJS in their 4th year for internship at that time?

A very influential professor from NUJS was instrumental in one of my batchmates getting several top internships, and even a job at a top law firm. My batchmate, of course, was a top rated scholar by that time and worked extensively on IP laws with this professor.

I could go on giving examples. But I think by now you are getting the point. You got to earn your recommendation.

There are probably a lot of different people in your environment who can put you in touch with amazing opportunities, but why should they? What are you doing to earn it?


Get an internship by showcasing your scholarship

It is difficult to tell a lot of stories without taking names (because I am too lazy to call up each of these friends and former students to take their permission to use their name in this article), but let me tell you one more anyway.

Imagine that you are from an unheard of law school in a small tier 4 town in Karnataka. What is your odds of landing an internship and subsequently a job at a Mumbai law firm? Next to nil, right? We saw this happening with one of our NUJS diploma course students.

The primary reason she landed that internship was that when her CV came up for scrutiny, it turned out that she had written a lot of blog posts about legal issues that startups face. You could see that she has been writing about legal issues regarding startups for over a year, did a course in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws, and could talk about startups at length. Now why will not a law firm that is focussing on startups will not want to hire such a person? How does it matter if she is not from a National Law University or GLC Bombay?

My friend Deepak Raju, who now works in Geneva as a lawyer specializing in International Trade and Dispute Resolution, used to write a lot about arbitration back when he was in college. He even started a blog called Lex Arbitri. As he made arbitration laws his focus while he was in college, and build his legal scholarship around it, over the years the opportunities that presented themselves to him are beyond the dreams of most law students. By the time he was working in Amarchand at this first job, he was sought after for his understanding of arbitration law within the organization. People from other departments will call him up to ask about various aspects of arbitration law. He continued to work on arbitration as he went for his masters, and eventually went on to work at Sidley Austin, one of the best in

If you really want to do well in your career, you got to find your corner of the law and build up some serious expertise in it. Start by learning what is their in the text books and statutes, but that’s hardly what lawyers get paid and stand out for. Dive deeper. Engage with important practical issues of the day. Write regularly on the subject. Get some real expertise in it. If you grapple with it day after day, keep reading and writing, it is only a matter of a few years, and you will be seriously ahead of the competition.

Everyone loves to hire a person like that. Internship is small game, you can crack it with a few months of effort. Choose an area of law that excites you and build some serious muscles in it.

How can you do these things systematically?

Here are a few actions I strongly recommend.

  1. Sign up for this course on practical aspects of business laws. I made this course after a short stint at a corporate law firm because I realised there was no good source for us to learn the corporate law. There was no efficient and effective way to learn things that really mattered. Sorry, reading business newspapers and textbooks will never give you a good start as a commercial lawyer, or help you to crack the internships you want. We built a course that will propel you forward in your career so you can have it easy. Here is the link:
  2. Start writing and publishing articles. You can submit your articles here. If it is good enough, we will publish it.
  3. Once your article is published, share it on your social media profiles, especially Linkedin. If you don’t have a profile there, create one. Add relevant people. Share the articles you write with practicing lawyers and ask for their feedback. Learn, implement, write more.


It won’t be easy. It will take several months of consistent work. However, if you put in the effort, no one can stop you from getting the best internships, no matter what background you come from, and what is your GPA.


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