Sometimes, I discourage my students from interning with lawyers or law firms. Why?
I am a big advocate of internships as a very important way for law students to get very important training that helps them to hit the road running when they graduate. I suggest that a law student should intern as often as possible and try to spend longer durations at a single internship so that they are taken seriously and given more work.
However, I have noticed a disturbing trend.
Many lawyers who take interns do not give much work to their interns.
Interns are mostly given proofreading or case law research work. Some of them just follow around the lawyers in the court or sit in a corner and read old files.
While there is scope for learning from such activities too, but that rarely leads to superior skill development that truly prepares a law student for the jobs they desire.
I do not want my students to do mere proofreading and case law research during an internship. There could be a better use of that time.
After all, the opportunities to intern are special, and you need to look at them as an opportunity to not only learn, but perform in a way that your employer soon realizes that you are doing as much as an associate is expected to do, so hiring you would be a no-brainer.
If they do not have a vacancy to hire you, they should want to create one because they do not want to let go of you. Or at the least, they should refer you to their friends, not as a favor to you, but as a favor to those friends!
What could you do to earn such skills and reputation?
Read that again.
We believe that as a law student your goal should be to learn as much as a lawyer who completed 1 or 2 years of working at the job that you are seeking to bag. This ensures that you easily get the jobs that you are aiming for.
Being ahead of the curve helps.
It sounds difficult, doesn’t it?
The bar I am setting is definitely higher than what you will hear anywhere else, but this is exactly what we follow, and believe can change the way you look at your education and career planning.
This approach does not only ensure that you get a job, but that you do very well in that job.
It is an open secret that close to 50% of law graduates, even from top NLUs, who join big law firms from campus recruitment, end up leaving those coveted well-paid jobs within a few months. Many have to be gently encouraged to leave.
Yes, people who leave often cite the infamous stress of law firm jobs, but where does that stress come from?
If you do not know the work you have to do, and if you are thrown into the deep end of the pool to see if you swim or sink, stress and failure, in a large number of cases, are inevitable.
Even those who succeed and survive, could have done much better, and avoided a lot of pain, had they followed my approach, of not merely training yourself to crack an interview or bag a job, but train yourself to do the job you will eventually be doing when you get that job!
While the situation of A0 associates in big law firms is open for everyone to see, due to the prominence of the situation, it is not so different in other places.
The problem of low wages given to law graduates by lawyers is continuing to a large extent because law students are not learning how to do the job. They expect to be taught after they are already hired to do the job.
The majority will continue to do so. Let them.
What if you changed your mindset, and decided that you want to learn the work that lawyers are actually asked to do for clients?
What if you could learn how to draft and negotiate agreements?
What if you had practiced doing mock due diligence on imaginary data rooms and practiced drafting due diligence reports?
What if you could learn to do each of the compliances for a simulation acquisition deal?
What if you had to prepare a written statement or injunction applications for imaginary cases, or go through an entire mock arbitration, where you had to do each of the things that an arbitration lawyer would have to do in a real arbitration?
What if you had to draft replies to imaginary legal notices or write a memo for an imaginary board of directors?
What if you learned one or two such skills every week till the day you graduate?
I would think that these things should be happening in law colleges already, but in reality that does not happen.
Last year, KIIT Law School hired us to train their graduating batch to draft contracts. After they drafted 20 contracts back to back and got feedback on their drafting, they had a very different level of confidence, not just because they knew how to deal a few different types of commercial contracts, but they had begun to think strategically about the clauses they drafted.
However, such training programs are very rare. What is most common is rote learning of some sections and case laws, or most likely some class notes so you can write a few answers in the exam and finally get your degree after doing time in law college.
Therefore, if you want to learn the work the way I am suggesting, you are on your own. You have to learn it on your own dime and on your own time.
There are two ways to learn.
One is to find a lawyer who knows the work and is willing to spare the time to teach you. One of my friends practice tax law, and her dad showed her the ropes personally, and gave opportunities to appear in cases she would not have got to argue before many years of trawling court corridors if she worked for another lawyer.
The other is to take a practical training course like one from LawSikho. To supplement the simulated learning environment we provide you, I am pushing the students who take our courses to go and work with startups which have a single person legal team or no legal team at all.
These startups can’t afford lawyers in most cases and they are happy to take legal interns. They will let you take a shot at drafting, compliance and creating company policies. The way they see: a rookie legal intern is better than a good lawyer they cannot hire at all!
If they have just one lawyer in the team, even better. That lawyer will give you real work and push you to do it, rather than just asking you to fix formatting errors and proofread documents. This is simply because he has a lot to do and no resources.
Startups are almost always hard-pressed for resources, and who wants to intern in startups with no legal team? It is very counter-intuitive. These internships are very easy to get and very very productive.
This situation on its own may not have been that good for you, but if you have been doing a suitable course with LawSikho, you by now know a bunch of skills that you can go and implement in such places.
You can suggest to your reporting manager that you want to implement certain new policies or create standard form contracts for future use. You can review past contracts, or provide inputs on the contracts they are going to sign. Only if you knew how many contracts startups sign without ever running them by any lawyer at all, you will realize what a golden opportunity it is.
When I was a law student, I routinely worked on such contracts and even earned from the same.
You can find a way to handle the consumer cases they are facing in some creative way. You could identify major legal risks to the business model and draw the attention of the leadership of the company to the same while suggesting some solutions as well.
What’s best, you are helping real businesses with legal solutions and learning a lot about how business folks think about legal work. You learn what are their problems like only an insider knows. You even build a network with such entrepreneurs and managers which will last a lifetime.
These are invaluable transferable skills that you will be able to use if you work in a law firm or in-house legal team. These skills are amazing when you are trying to get your own clients. The network you build will even help you to find jobs or clients in the future because they will see you as a part of the startup ecosystem, one of their own rather than just another lawyer.
Plus, startups grow and need lawyers quite soon. If not this one, someone else will.
You can infiltrate the tribe of entrepreneurs that way.
Yes, I did this myself when I was a law student, with some crazy amazing results. The experience was far more valuable, though I managed to earn a fair sum too, which supported a student like me who had many financial difficulties otherwise and could not count on my parents for financing my dreams and goals.
Should you focus on earning? Not at all unless you are hard-pressed for money. At this stage, start by offering to work for free, preferably after college hours every day.
My students have been doing this, and have produced spectacular results. It does not matter if you are from the worst college in the country and if you have never mooted in your life. You certainly need not spend 5 years doing CS. By doing what I am suggesting you here, you can surpass all those who have the best CVs, because things written on paper are never as valuable as lessons learned from real battles won and lost.
Want to know more about how we can help you in your career journey? Reply to this mail and we will schedule a call with you.
All the best.
Here are some courses which are helping our students to bag the most coveted jobs in the legal industry:
EXECUTIVE CERTIFICATE COURSES
Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skill.