This article is written by Yash Kapadia. This article lays out the different opportunities for a first-year student to intern at except an NGO.
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It is public knowledge that law students, regardless of which year they are in, are virtually competing to take positions at law firms, companies, corporations, courts for internships. As they turn senior and the more experience they gain, the better are their chances to land an internship at your desired place. However, what about those who are in the first year? It is said that going from zero to one is more of a task than going from 1 to 10.
Through this article, we shall enlist opportunities that first-year students can pick up in order to become better lawyers of the future.
The skills you need to focus on
As a first-year law student, the goal of every student should be laser focussed on learning the skills which can mould them into the best lawyers when these skills develop and start compounding over a period of a few years, in all likelihood, by the time they graduate as lawyers.
Therefore, the basic and most important skills to concentrate on when a law student enters law school are:
- Writing communication
A lot of work in the legal profession involves writing. The work of any lawyer will involve writing letters, legal notices, drafting legal documents and contracts, etc. The way they write their letters and draft emails to clients gives the reader an idea about the lawyer’s command over his English proficiency skills. An error-free written document without errors builds the clients’ confidence in the lawyer. Written communication is one of the most important skills any lawyer should have and it develops and gets better only with practice. A first-year student by participating in writing competitions, written negotiations, etc. can develop this skill.
- Oral communication
A lawyer must possess equally good oral communication skills such as written communication. Exceptional oral communication skills bolster the self-confidence of a law student too. Moot courts are the best way in which a student can learn the art of advocacy i.e. oral communication. Oral communication in easy words means to speak and converse with ease leaving a fashionable impression on the listener. This skill also compounds by being consistent over a period of time.
- Research skills and eye for detail
A graduate lawyer should always be prepared with relevant notes and research material before a meeting with any client. A well-researched lawyer always leaves a good impression on the client as well as his seniors at the workplace. They must read everything carefully and analyse the situations themselves. As a first-year law student, one can start researching current legal topics in the news. One can further read articles from legal blogs in order to understand the concepts of law that are explained in a simple manner. For example, iPleaders blog.
- Analytical and reasoning skills
A day in a busy lawyer’s life involves meeting many people who are facing several different legal problems and therefore makes it important for them to be very sharp and think logically before analysing every situation and coming to a conclusion about them. First-year law students can perhaps read landmark case laws in order to understand how a judge analyses the facts of a case and then interprets the law as per the factual circumstances and comes to a conclusion by passing an order.
Options apart from NGOs that help to build the above skills
First-year students must understand that they are exactly what they used to be in kindergarten. They have no idea about the law or the way it works. It is also widely known that first-year students are “told” or even “suggested” to work at NGOs. However, not all first-year law students get opportunities to work at NGOs. In fact, there are better opportunities that are not quite explored by these students which shall transform them into an entirely better version of law students in the first year itself. The following are the places first-year students must consider exploring for their internships:
- Content writing for a legal blog
When one starts writing articles that get published, there are so many skills that are put to work and molded into better versions with consistency. Content writing involves research, drafting, usage of legal language, interpretation of the law, proof-reading, editing, etc. Legal content writing is probably one of the best ways to build up a strong foundation of the skills every successful person possesses. Instead of trying their luck at big law firms, first-year students must make an endeavour to send internship applications to legal blogs. For example, iPleaders blog has a policy of hiring a certain number of interns on a rolling basis every month. iPleaders also holds weekly blog writing competitions wherein a first-year student who is not doing an internship too can submit his articles and stand a chance to win monetary benefits if they stand in the top 5. Other blogs where interns are hired to write content include Lawctopus, Bar and Bench, Manupatra, SCC Online, LegallyIndia, Legal Bites, SpicyIP. After a few months of interning and writing content, an intern has the liberty to upskill by becoming an editor or even an evaluator for the blog or a journal.
- Research internships
In recent years, the position of a research intern is something that first-year students are more than enthusiastic to take up. Research interns as the tag suggests are responsible specifically for research across varied areas as per the job descriptions of the MNC, startup or a law firm, Ph.D. students or professors hiring interns. One needs to develop articles/ video content for their website. The general responsibilities for a research intern will be to research on the allotted topics along with content and abide by the research guidelines like maintaining plagiarism. If a research intern is needed by a Ph.D. student or a professor then one must have to research in-depth on a particular topic and be updated on the recent amendments and practical developments in the legal field. Also, if a consultancy or legal recruitment firm needs research interns then their responsibilities would be to write reports on particular law firms, research more on the deals of law firms. All in all, a research intern is a well-known position today and helps to develop research skills, brushes one’s MS Word and Excel skills also. Professors, LLM/ Ph.D. candidates of various law schools in India post on LinkedIn (“Research interns needed” posts) if they are looking out for research interns. Recruitment firms like Vahura too hire research interns who help them map and overview various aspects of law firms.
- Court clerks
Court clerks are one of the most under-rated professions for any law student to consider interning under. As first-year law students, the goal should be to learn the workings of a court in their particular state. By courts, we mean from the subordinate courts to High Courts. A student interning under a good court clerk can become well conversant with the entire filing process of any legal document in court, the timeline it takes for matters to set rolling for hearings, the kind of procedure to follow when amendments need to be carried out or objections are to be removed. All these skills will apply when the first-year students intend to practice litigation or dispute resolution and want to run their own law firm someday. The best way to bag an internship under a court clerk is to physically go to the court and look out for clerks who in all likelihood will be present. Court clerks are approachable and also more welcoming to provide the knowledge they possess to law students.
- District Court lawyers
The judicial system of India sits on the lower courts. The sheer backlog of cases, the not-so-good ambience as that of High Courts and the different issues that are disputed are a delight to watch and learn from. Any first-year law student who has studied the subjects of Contract Law or Tort Law will see all the sections they have studied, being applied in real life. This opportunity of working under a district lawyer can be more fruitful than interning even at a big law firm. In fact, district lawyers tend to also invest time in making an intern learn various aspects of law along with drafting certain simple legal documents like vakalatnamas, legal notices, adjournment applications. The skills an intern can learn here will stick with them for a lifetime. The best way to approach district court lawyers is to either find their name and contact information online or to approach them by going to the district court physically. Similar to law clerks, they too are approachable and more than happy and willing to guide and mentor law students.
Every law student regardless of which year they are in, can approach any start-up across the globe and help them with the legal aspects of what they may face. The knowledge and experience of a law student in helping a start-up grow are incomparable. A startup like the law student is raw and not well established. When the pressure to research, communicate and provide leads and compliance information to the team is on the law student, it is then, they shall understand the veracity of the role of a lawyer in a company. Law students can go on LinkedIn or even Twitter (a more informal site to approach) or sites like Y Combinator and ascertain which funded start-up excites them the most and then approach any member of it and ask them if they would be open to providing a law student with the role of a legal intern. This approach may be difficult but it is definitely the road less taken with abundant rewards.
- Law firms with less than 5 lawyers
There are hundreds of law firms that have less than five lawyers working. Being a first-year student, the goal should be to select a firm where people are ready to invest their time and energy to mentor, guide and make you understand various aspects of law, be it corporate, banking or disputes. These small law firms are often loaded with a variety of matters spread across different areas of law which shall help the law student build a strong foundation on different law subjects. These small firms may or may not pay a stipend to an intern. However, the knowledge one gains is a part of the intellectually fulfilling experience. One can check on LinkedIn or ask their networks around for corporate and litigation law firms with a small team. For example, in Mumbai, Delhi and other metro cities there are various small-sized corporate law firms whereas there are numerous small-sized litigation firms where opportunities are available if one persistently searches. To find an ideal choice aligning with their interests, one needs to network with senior law students.
- Content development
Content development is one such field wherein one can learn the very basics and even the complications of personal branding. Legal internships for content development include developing content for the growth of a law firm, legal cell, blog or even a legal tech startup. An intern has to develop articles or video content for the recruiter’s website. They further have to assist with the recruiter’s online presence by developing strategy, producing good content and analyzing usage data. The intern further provides assistance in managing projects and campaigns and furthermore with the management of social media pages and profiles. Even though this role is not entirely law-related, all the skills you learn here will only mean to develop skills which a general lawyer wouldn’t have. A lawyer having content development skills can provide these skills at an affordable rate and also help when they need personal branding. For example, a student can approach or send applications to law firms, companies, NGO’s for helping them develop content. These roles are unconventional and catch the eyes of HR more quickly than the generic legal internship roles.
Regardless of the circumstances, if a first-year is interning at a place mentioned above or an NGO, this one is probably one of the best self-investments he will be making. When a first-year student takes up an online course about contract law, companies law, arbitration law, he leads himself ahead of a lot of peers in the curve by understanding the legal aspects and meaning of the law at a premature age. For example, LawSikho provides courses varied across all kinds of law along with added benefits like freelancing and placements which not only help a first-year law student to be a better version of himself but also transform him into a disciplined, consistent learner, which is the most important attribute to have if one wants to be a successful lawyer. The skills learned at LawSikho courses are then applied to freelancing opportunities for which mentorship is provided to a student. Online diploma and certificate courses are also offered by Lawctopus Law School, various NLUs like NUJS, NLSIU and even Government Law College, Mumbai.
The afore-mentioned blogs at regular intervals also call for research papers and articles, even on specific areas like Arbitration, Corporate Law, etc. wherein any student can participate in such a competition which also awards monetary benefits to winners. This shall enable the students to improve their writing skills and build a good network of like-minded people by interacting and reading the winners’ articles or papers. There are various other online courses offered on Coursera when one has the liberty to search for a course depending on the area of their interest. Imagine earning in dollars with the skills you learned that will last you a lifetime, that too in the first year of law.
In drawing things to a close, we discussed what kind of internships can first-year law students do in order to start being productive. We also gave an example of how doing an online course can be the best self-investment a law student makes at the earliest stage of his career.
One thing to always keep in mind is that law is a profession that needs patience. In keeping this statement even more clear, the skills you learn today, will develop tomorrow and be used later on at any given instance. That may take 5 years, 7 years or even 10 years. The skills you learn during the law school days are compounded just like an investment and the fruits of it can be seen only due course. Patience is something a law student should master. Therefore, let the power of compounding begin from the first year itself.
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