Legal Externship Gold?

externshipIn this funky economy, legal jobs are tough to find, so consider finding an externship to boost your resume and your spirit.

There are a bunch of upsides to an externship. One, your school might give you credit for your time. Two, if you pick the right place, you should get some great experience. You may be able to leverage your free labor for more high-level experience. Three, it may transform into a paying job down the line.

Like anything else, there are some downsides. Some employers are likely to exploit the bad economy to their advantage. They might just use you for free labor even though they could actually pay you. They might even promise to pay you down the road. Probably the worst situation is if they use you to do work that is not true “legal work” and is of no value to you.

Do your homework. Just because you are working for free does not mean you should not be picky. Any firm that treats free labor badly is likely to have a bad reputation. Find a place that feels right, and it may just pay off in the end.

Law students exiled to externships | Legal blog watch

(photo: kcolwell)


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  • In the current market, anything you can do to make you stand out helps. Experience is definitely one the important ones. Externships also increase the possibility of landing a position with another employer based upon a strong recommendation for your current supervisor or other connections developed in the course of the externship. If you can’t get paid, get experience.

  • Joe Strummer

    Be strategic about the externship. Also, everyone knows that taking yet another law school course is asinine. You’re much much better off doing a quality externship, than taking, I don’t know, Federal Courts. Remember, at some point you’ll be out of school, and will need to learn the law through, you know, books and stuff. Not by being in a law school classroom.

    1. Don’t extern at a place where you aren’t doing legal work. Some of your less-well-funded places will actually give you really good work because they are so understaffed.
    2. Treat the externship as a “job”. Don’t think that just because you’re not getting paid, you can do half-assed work, or leave early. If you’re bothering to extern, then do it properly. I was at my externship long after some attorneys left for the day.
    3. Be firm, but courteous, about getting legal work. Every place needs to do grunt work, and just because you’re in an externship, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing some grunt work. But given that you’re working “free”, you can, after doing some grunt work, begin to ask for higher level stuff. Don’t ever bitch. After all, you’re hoping that people in the firm, agency, company will consider hiring you as a peer.
    4. Don’t extern at some place where the people aren’t connected enough or aren’t willing to help you land a job at another place in town.

    I second chaired an armed robbery trial as an extern, turned up an alibi through hussling that got our client a not-guilty on a violent felony charge, dealt directly with judges, clients, and DAs, and did a load of other high level felony work. I had a blast.

    Unfortunately, in this economy with budget cut backs, it was not enough to get me a position at the Public Defender’s office, but it did give me a ton of experience that I’m turning into my own firm.