Externships in Law School

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This has been a BUSY summer and it is still going! I wanted to update y’all on my experience at my externship. I was going to write this when I had first started working, but I am glad that I didn’t. I didn’t write this blog earlier because I would not capture my whole experience. The beginning is way different than where I am now. I am now at the end of my externship and want to share my experience with you all.

What is an Externship?

I did not know what an externship was until my second semester in law school. I was so used to hearing “internships” that externship sounded like it was a misspelling. It is NOT a misspelling. An externship is when you work to receive class credit. Within the externship, you must complete a certain about of hours (160 hours for 3 credits), attend four classes, log and turn in weekly hours, turn in three journals, and submit 25 pages of non-confidential work. Also, you must have a faculty sponsor. This sponsor keeps up with you throughout the semester and makes sure that everything is going smoothly.

Why Did I Decide to do an Externship?

I started to apply to internships my second semester first-year of law school. I had many interviews that I got invited to, but I was never picked for the position. I felt sad that I wasn’t getting any jobs for summer. I never held a legal position prior to law school, so I wanted to work in a legal environment this summer. I went to my contracts professor and asked her if she knew about anyone that were hiring interns for summer. She asked me if I had considered externships. At this point, I had not considered an externship because there needed to be a cover letter and writing sample in most cases. She then told me that she would look into internships if I looked into externships. I worked with the career center to get my cover letter done and used a writing sample from my legal writing class that I did well on. I started to apply just like what I promised. Then, I finally got a position!

What was my Role at my Externship?

I started off attending court with the Junior Partner, drafted a letter to clients and did A LOT of research. The funny thing about doing research is that I absolutely disliked it in legal writing and now it is the best thing I have to offer. I was told to research questions regarding the cases that the law firm was handling. Most of the topics I was asked to research seemed like there was no answer to it. I would always start off looking at google and looking at blogs posted by other lawyers around the country. Once I found a case, I then looked for that case and relating cases on Westlaw. The most important thing about researching is knowing how to phrase your question and what words to use. This can make a huge difference when conducting legal research. I have also drafted an amended complaint which was AMAZING. I did a lot of research for this case and the Managing Partner said “based on the research you have conducted, should we amend the complaint” and I said yes. He said “okay, can you draft it?” I was shocked to get that question, but I was not going to say no. I had not previously drafted any kind of complaint, so my first step was to look at other complaints and see the structure.

Recently, I have been going through A LOT of medical records. It is important to pay close attention to detail when it comes to looking at medical records. You must also be organized and keep up with what request have been sent out and how long they have been out. I have had to do follow-up phone calls because documents may not be received or other issues may arise. It is always great to follow up and check the status of the request that was sent.

What Did I Learn?

This is a list of things that I have learned, improved, and nurtured doing my time at my externship in no particular order.

BE CONFIDENT (even if you are wrong)

This is where I struggled the most. Even if I am right, I will still question myself. This is a bad habit that has gone on for far too long. As an attorney, confidence is key. This is something I try to improve everyday even if it is just in everyday life outside of my office.

Befriend the Paralegal (you are not above them)

You are not above the paralegal just because you are a law student. The paralegal (especially at my job) is amazing. They are truly what keeps the law firm going in my opinion. I have worked side by side with the paralegal and they were very helpful when I had questions or when giving me instructions for an assignment. I am glad to have built a bond with the paralegal because it is truly important.

Always Carry a Legal Pad (especially when given an assignment)

I ALWAYS have my legal pad on me, so that when the Managing Partner, Junior Partner or Paralegal give me an assignment I can make sure that I get everything down that is expected of me.

BE INVOLVED

Do as much as you can. Learn as much as you can. Do stuff that you have never done before. Go to Court. Go to Depositions. By doing this, you will be more valuable to the company and valuable when it comes to resume building. Make the most of your experience!

Ask Questions

Make sure that you have clarity. Understand your assignment fully. If you have any questions or concerns, then you should ask. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification because you want to make sure that you do the assignment right.

Be Quick, Diligent, and Accurate

Work quickly, but also make sure that everything is still being done correctly. You want to make sure that you do everything right the first time, so that you have to redo it in the future.

Watch your Language

I mean this by using descriptive language. I have notice that I say “For this document, what am I supposed to research?” I have recently tried to get out of this because the attorneys, paralegals and legal support staff are busy doing other tasks, so when you ask about “this”, “that” and not specifying, it doesn’t give any background. I have tried to improve this by saying more specific stuff such as: “In this [insert client name/case name], I am looking over the [insert task assigned] and I was wondering…” you want to make sure that you are giving enough back ground so that they can follow along you and your thought process in order to answer your question fully.

Pay Close Attention to Detail

Be a Couple of Steps Ahead of Your Employer

Always Bring the File With You If Talking About Case with the Boss

Know WHY You Are Doing Certain Tasks

I have learned many things on this journey of being of an extern and I am really glad that someone chose me for the position. I have been offered a position as a Law Clerk for this same law firm, and I am excited to see what more that I learn. I highly encourage applying to externships! You never know what you might learn.

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