This article on Myths about law internships and why should you do one – Part 1 is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, Co-founder & CEO at iPleaders.
Today I was speaking to a junior – he does not like his current internship. He thinks he is not getting enough work. He’s bored – he wants to do something productive. While talking to him, I was reminded once more of the sheer misconception most people have about internships. I must give credit to this person for identifying a problem – most law students gladly while away their internships believing in useless fictions like “brand value of college”, “CV value” and stuff like that. Some people even believe that they can only do certain internships in certain years – for instance, in 2nd year they must do a trial court internship.
I thought I might as well demystify this internship business on this blog before I die from shame while replying to these questions repeatedly on Facebook and Google chat.
First things first. Before talking about the myths, let’s get a grasp on the legitimate and realistic reasons for interning.
Why should you do an internship?
Please don’t do internships for CV value. That’s dumb. There’s no such thing as CV value. It’s a fairy tale you were told in first year of college – now grow up and understand why smart people do internships:
Our education system is very poor when it comes to teaching practical skills. At an internship, it is possible that you’ll get to learn a lot of things – like inter-personal skills, managing a professional schedule, working with superiors and living upto their expectation, and more industry specific things like research, presentation, convincing other people of your idea, writing professional memo/ notes etc. I strongly recommend that you intern a few times at some genuine startups, because learning curve is very steep there. You’ll be given challenging tasks that has real world implications – how cool is that? Compare that to a law firm where you’ll be helping some puny first-year associate to research on shops and establishment act or proofreading agreements.
As a lawyer, you can immensely benefit from learning marketing, sales, people management, blogging or SEO, things that start-ups frequently deal with. You can learn by interning at a lot of other places too. My initiation in salesmanship was when I was surveying some forest dwellers in Uttarakhand – and I had to go from door to door, and get them to answer questions while they were busy tending to their livestock. That proved to be a valuable lesson later.
Once a very successful solo practitioner in Mumbai told me that a lawyer with a rising career usually spends one third of his time managing people, including clients, and another one third in marketing and networking. Only the rest goes into actual legal work. Learn as much of these skills you can while you are at college, and it would make a difference in your career later.
To get a job
Do you already know where you want to get a job? Are you reasonably confident of your knowledge and skills? Now just make sure you intern there long enough to get noticed and liked. Everyone likes to hire interns that they know to be good. The flip side is that bad interns, whiners, lazy boys, stupid and stubborn idiots are never called back after an internship – because the recruiters already know what to expect.
If you want to get a job at any place, land an internship there. Then work really hard and be very dedicated so that you get noticed and hired.
To figure out
You need to figure out in life what you like and what you don’t. I and most of my batchmates thought that we’d love law firm jobs. In less than 1 year, 20 of my batchmates quit from top 5 law firms, and I did the same on the 12th month. Some of my friends have gone back to law firm jobs, while I am working at iPleaders for the last few months. I am certainly enjoying my current work much more than what I did at the law firm.
One has to figure out and test what they can do, what they like to do and where they can work. Internship is a great tool for this.
These are the only sensible reasons to intern anywhere. Otherwise you are probably not using your internships very productively. (I personally interned to travel in the initial years in law school – what can be a better excuse to go off to a far flung corner of the country for a month or two?)
In Part II, I will discuss some of the myths around internship which seems to be misguiding and preventing a lot of law students from achieving their true potential.