As a new paralegal, an internship can provide you with valuable experience. An internship experience with a local law firm will help you to hone your interview skills, build your resume and stretch your freshly minted paralegal wings in preparation for an exciting career in the legal field. Pursuing an internship with a law firm that interests you is well worth the effort, and could possibly set the tone and direction for a fulfilling paralegal career.
There are a number of networks through which you can search for an internship position, including the institution where you obtained your paralegal education, social networks (LinkedIn is a great source for finding paralegal networks that can clue you into the latest paralegal internships), and your state and local paralegal associations. Simply sending a resume and cover letter to a local law firm that offers legal services in your area of interest is also an acceptable way to reach out in an attempt to get your foot in the door.
Consider exactly what you are looking for in a paralegal internship before you begin your search. For example, do you want to work at a large law firm, or do you feel like a smaller law firm would be a better fit for you? Do you want a part-time or a full-time internship? Is there a particular area of law in which you want to gain experience?
Steps to Landing a Paralegal Internship
When looking to land a paralegal internship, you may find you’re up against some competition. This means being selective in your own right and making each attempt to connect with a local law office really count. You don’t want to take on an internship with a firm that isn’t of real interest to you, so you should only pursue internships with firms that align with your professional goals and objectives.
Here are a few tips to help you find and land a paralegal internship that will provide a strong foundation for a successful career:
Collect Reference Letters
Ask a favorite instructor for a letter of reference to include with your resume, application, and cover letter. Although this may not be required by the law firm, it will certainly be a clear indicator that you are motivated to land an internship and that you’ve taken your education seriously.
With that in mind, it is a must to take the time to establish yourself as a committed student during your educational experience so as to make the process of collecting reference letters an easy one.
Develop Your Resume and Cover Letter
Take the time to craft an informative and interesting resume that details your educational experience, your paralegal program and the degree acquired, and any special skills you obtained outside of the standard paralegal coursework.
Include information on any volunteer work you may have participated in (particularly if it was for community-based legal programs) or if you held any jobs that allowed you to develop skills that translate easily into a paralegal position (administrative assistant or secretarial positions, for example). These volunteer and job experiences will serve as a valuable addition to your resume.
Develop a well-written cover letter that speaks to your passion for obtaining an internship position. A cover letter is a must and is an excellent way to show your professionalism and competence. Your cover letter should be persuasive and should read like a concise argument for why you would be an excellent addition to the firm. Further, it should clearly show your excitement, motivation and willingness to take on any number of tasks that will help you gain invaluable legal experience.
Since a cover letter and resume are likely your first contact with the law firm, it is important to give these two documents a great deal of care.
Interviewing for Your Internship
If you land an interview for a paralegal internship, take the enthusiasm and passion for this profession that you articulated in your resume and cover letter into the interview room and remember that poise, professional attire and demeanor, and honesty are a must when interviewing for a paralegal internship.
Look your interviewer in the eyes and answer all questions thoughtfully and candidly. Play up your positive character traits and skills and speak to the quality of your education, what you’ve learned from it, and how you feel it will translate well into your first paralegal professional experience.