No Internship? No Problem! Do This Instead.

Feel like you’ve hit a wall with the internship search for the upcoming semester or summer? You’re not alone! It can easily feel like you’ve exhausted all of the openings and have run out of networking opportunities. However, don’t let the lack of landing anything “official” take away your willingness to work hard and get something on your resume. Let’s explore some opportunities that you might want to consider as resume-building alternatives to a traditional internship or externship.

Get Published

I like to say that one of the best-kept secrets of publishing experience is that it’s actually not that hard to get published as a law student! Granted, you will need to expand your horizons regarding the types of publications you are seeking out. For example, don’t just focus on publications tied to your school (such as law review or practice-specific journals). Instead, you should work on getting an article or blog post published through the American Bar Association and one of its many publications or ABA Groups (and committees), a local bar association (even if it’s just a newsletter!). Many of these groups regularly publish newsletters, or similar content, and appreciate any opportunity to have something to boost their publication.

You can also consider co-authoring an article with an attorney. It will feel refreshing to reach out to attorneys not for an internship or job, but with ideas for publications. I can’t tell you how many attorneys are either actively working on an unfinished publication, or have an idea for one that they simply don’t have the time to research and author. Fill this need for them! When you are networking, consider asking them if they are working on anything. If not, consider proposing a relevant topic or “breaking” news piece that could be submitted to a local bar newsletter, or even published on a law firm website.

Volunteer / Pro Bono Work

If you are a member of your local bar association, you should be able to find a list of upcoming pro bono clinics. These offer an incredible opportunity to give back to the local community with valuable legal services that otherwise not be available to clinic attendees. My first pro bono clinic was super scary! I’m not going to lie. It’s very overwhelming and hard to push yourself into attending a pro bono clinic as a law student. It’s easy to feel inadequate and doubt the value you bring. However, you are there to help! You have a valuable set of skills that can help serve those in need. There is immense value in your presence at a pro bono event, even if your role is checking people in for the event or performing intake before the attendees meet with an attorney.

I also found that volunteering at pro bono events as a law student provided great opportunities to gain practical experience sitting down with an experienced attorney and watching them in practice, giving guidance and assistance on the fly. You are being expose to real-world clients with real issues. That’s something you can’t exactly get by sitting in a classroom! Additionally, there are great networking opportunities at a pro bono clinic since there are guaranteed to be attorneys in attendance. Lastly, be sure to keep track of all your pro bono work. It needs to be immediately added to your resume and LinkedIn. Some local bar associations and state supreme courts recognize pro bono service if you self-report.

No upcoming legal clinics, or can’t find one within a subject area for which you are passionate? Offer to organize one a local organization or through your law school! Just find a professor or local attorney that is willing to work with you on sponsoring the event, perhaps even a school student organization.

Benefit: Remote work! If you design your own internship program, you have the freedom and flexibility to work from home or wherever you might be traveling at the time.
Hidden Benefit: Remote work! If you design your own internship program, you have the freedom and flexibility to work from home or wherever you might be traveling at the time.

Be a Research Assistant

Typically, we think of a formal opportunity serving as the research assistant to a professor at your school. However, that’s just one type of research experience! I do recommend at least emailing or stopping by the office of at least one or two of your professors if you haven’t already. You never know if they might need help over the summer or upcoming semester wrapping up a research or publication commitment they’ve made.

If there aren’t any opportunities with a professor, explore possibilities within bar associations. The American Bar Association, for example, has hundreds of active committees and action groups that are working on various issues and challenges facing the profession. It’s simple: first, join the ABA… it’s FREE for law students so there is no excuse; second, you join an ABA Group (or two or three!); third, you find a committee or action group within the ABA Group and email the leaders asking if there are any opportunities to get involved as a law student on a research project. I recommend emailing at least two or three committees or action groups to ensure you are casting a wide enough net for opportunities.

Self-Study Or certification

Perhaps you know of a certificate program that is applicable to your targeted or dream area of law? For example, privacy professionals might explore certification options with IAPP. A full list of current certifications and specializations that are recognized by the ABA can be found on the Standing Committee on Specialization website, although some require bar passage and a number of year in practice. That being said, now might be the best time to study and take any necessary exams to achieve a desired certification, whether specific to the legal profession or not, that can build your resume and showcase expertise.

If it comes down to it and you still don’t have anything planned for the semester or summer, you could look at taking some online courses (for free and on-demand) from CourseraedXKhan Academy or even Harvard. Premium platforms, such as LinkedIn Learning (free 30 day trial, too!), provide robust course offerings with industry experts on a monthly, annual, or one-off basis. Although the last thing on your mind might be enrolling in more course work, you might enjoy a break from the “legal” course rigor and find new practical skills to learn and apply to your practice of law. If you want to ensure a tangible outcome from an online course, narrow your search for courses that specifically offer certificates or similar completion recognition that can add to your resume to show a skill in a specific area.

Have any additional ideas for creative internship opportunities? Share them in the comments!

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