Internships are the closest thing to the practical experience a law student can have. They get to do it during vacations for a month or two, generally. Some of the students intern after college to gain maximum exposure to the work at hand. Therefore, those interested in media and entertainment law, have to cross this very bridge to enter the hallowed gates of the industry as well.
Recently, I was talking to a colleague and she said she had interned with two giant media houses in her five-year course. She told me how those internships although enriching experiences did not convert into PPOs. I shared my lucky break into the media and entertainment industry and told her how I stumbled into the industry after 1.5 years without much preparation.
While we swapped our stories, I realised that I had interned for about a month in a firm with IP practice, which has somehow factored into my job in the industry. I had also taken an optional paper in media laws which was helpful. But I had not planned to venture into the media industry. I did both those things without much thought. To be honest I went with the course as it was more interesting than the alternative subject, and the internship was an attempt to add a law firm on my resume filled with litigation internships.
It got me thinking about how lucky I have been in terms of my career. Students and professionals alike keep asking me about career opportunities, internships and more in the media and entertainment industry. The benefits certainly outweigh the drawbacks. You can read the benefits of being a media and entertainment lawyer here.
So I began narrowing down the things I have witnessed from both sides, which may enable the law students to bag the top media and entertainment law internships out there. Here are my findings:
# Knowledge of the Industry
Everyone loves the media and entertainment industry. There is literally the news! So you have access to the information pertaining to the industry. You may be oblivious to the inner-workings of the industry and their legal requirements, but you have the opportunity to know about the disputes and allegations in the news.
While I was interviewing for my job during the technical rounds, I was answering the questions to the best of abilities. But I was having a hard time answering some of the technical questions. In my preparation, I had come across a recent case that the company had lost on some specific interpretation. I tried casually slipping that case into the conversation and posed my alternative take on the decision. I felt something change in the room. My interpretation may not have been fool-proof or even hold good in court of law, but it showed my potential employers two things: one, that I had done my research, and two, that I was willing to think out of the box.
I remember, even as an employee, I used to forage the news for relevant developments. In fact, at a point it was part of my weekly work – to help compile a report on such developments. So, do your research on the industry. There are tons of case laws, recent developments in the news. Before applying for a particular company, check what kind of disputes they get into. Being a lawyer, dispute resolution and relevant research on it will be part of the intern’s job. Start at it as soon as you can.
# Knowledge of the subject
As I said earlier, I took an optional paper in media law in college which helped me get the internship in a firm. This eventually helped to possess and show demonstrated knowledge in the subject matter.
But the problem is, you can’t list out the papers you have done in college. You have to wait till the interview to bring that up or maybe in the cover letter. But how much weight does one paper in one or two semesters may have in your resume? You could do say, a full-fledged media and entertainment laws course first, which not only gives you theoretical knowledge, but teaches how to apply it practically to real-life situations. This you can mention under educational qualification section of your resume. Needless to say a course like that will definitely stand out on one’s resume.
More importantly you’ll be able to learn the things not taught in law school in a practical way. You must know IT laws, IP laws, constitutional laws, contract laws, etc., to appear as a strong candidate for the position. Learn about developments in copyright infringement, freedom of speech and expression, comparative advertising and disparagement, etc.
# Develop relevant skill sets
The first thing on your resume a potential employer will look for is what have you learnt in the past internships. It helps them analyse whether you will be able to handle the assigned work or not. Good grades, relevant publications, research papers, etc., show demonstrated skill set of an applicant.
But, what skills must an intern possess?
Usually interns are assigned works related to research, reporting, presentation, documentation, etc. These are things that ease the lives of the associates or counsels. Remember the interns are assigned the work based on their caliber and the necessities of the organisation. So an intern must have critical thinking, contract drafting skills, research skills, must be able to procure orders from the various websites, prepare reports and presentation, etc.
# Relevant publications
I found out how much writing articles help pretty late in life. I did not realise the potential and significance writing articles and research papers could have on one’s resume. It helps to show potential employers that you are well-versed, possess cogent thought process on the subject matter.
You not only have to do solid research, writing and editing of the article, you must cite the sources and ensure there is no plagiarism. You can use editing tools like www.grammarly.com. Then you must circulate your articles in the right social networks and groups to enhance visibility of your work. Be open to criticism as well as feedback and respond to those who reach out to you. This will help you build a peer-to-peer network as well.
Recently, a colleague of mine started writing articles. It turns out like many other things, she excelled in this aspect and results appeared within a week. Her article on the best media law firms in India was featured by Naik Naik & Co.on their LinkedIn page!
She had not even shared it on her social media prior to that! Imagine the joy and validation of one’s work!
So the point is to keep writing about relevant development in the industry. This will be helped by you trying to keep up with the news on the industry and laws impacting it.
Off late, a few law students have asked me how to procure internships in media and entertainment law industry. The company I worked for did not hire legal interns. So I could not recommend them that. Most companies have a career page where they mention their internship programme and share contact email ids.
So you could try that. But there is a risk of your application being lost in the pile with the others. Then what do you do to reach out the relevant people in the business?
My seniors in college used to advice us to send out applications with cover letters curated to the organisation and how and why you stand out from the crowd. Then the next thing was to curate the resume which highlights the skills or internships relevant to organisation. There is no point sending a media company your resume where you highlight your internship with an NGO. It just does not make sense. The advice still holds good.
The resume should be tailored to highlight your contract drafting experience, your researching skills, publications in the field, relevant media law courses taken. Then you have to do the follow-up with the organisation about your application. You have to find the sweet spot between appearing interested in an internship and being annoying about your application.
With professional social media like LinkedIn, you have a chance to network with the industry people directly. Use that to your advantage. Build relations with people from the industry and then ask them about their internship programmes. The publications you share might also add value on such social media.
Your application may get rejected. It has happened to me more times than I can count. But you just need the one acceptance to get your foot through the door. There is no sureshot way to ensure that you will get that internship with the media and entertainment company or law firm or lawyer. But you can always ask for information and feedback. What are they looking for which you lack? Is there something you can work on or apply again? Use the feedback to strengthen your resume for the next time.
Keep at it. Eventually with hard work and dedication, things will surely work out your way. It sure did for me.