Striking it Rich: The Importance of the Paralegal Internship

by Jan Hill

Many educational programs require that their students complete an internship. The value of the paralegal internship cannot be overstated. Think of it as the paralegal’s “golden ticket,” even though gold may have little to do with it.
When you’re a student, finding a place to intern can be a real…pain. But, alas: no pain, no gain. This foray into the legal world is perhaps the most important part of a paralegal’s education.
When I was a paralegal student, I recall one of my classmates lamenting about the amount of work involved in securing an internship. “It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked to get a job–and this one is for no pay.” Probably true, but you’ve got to look at the big picture. This valuable experience is designed to prepare you for jobs that do pay, and hopefully pay well.
Here are a few tips to help you find your internship, and make the most of it once you do:

Use Your Connections


As a student, you may not know a lot of legal professionals who are currently working in the field. But you do know a lot of paralegal educators, many of whom have practiced law in the past or still do. Brainstorm with them about internship possibilities, and if they don’t know of any, ask them for names of others who may be looking for an intern. 

Be a Joiner


Local paralegal associations usually allow students to join their organizations. Use this opportunity to get to know other working paralegals who may be able to point you in the direction of a great internship. Pay close attention to those who talk about being overworked or short-staffed; their firms might have an immediate need for a student intern.

Look in Unsuspected Places


Don’t limit yourself to an internship in a law firm. Think about interning for an insurance company, a prosecutor’s office (which I did), a medical facility, or a real estate agency. What area of law are you most interested in?  Let that be your guide when pursuing your internship.

Give It Your All


Regardless of whether your internship is paid or not, you need to treat it like the golden opportunity it is. Make the most of it and learn all that you can. Go the extra mile. Even if you don’t get a job offer at the end of the internship, make sure they will remember your initiative when a position does open up. Remember, many people change jobs every three or four years, so the top firms always keep their eyes open for new talent. 

STILL Want to be a Paralegal?


One of the main reasons why a a paralegal internship is so vital is to make sure the career is really for you. Just because you are addicted to Boston Legal, couldn’t get enough of the Amanda Knox murder trial, and are extremely entertained by the trials and tribulations of celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, all that doesn’t necessarily mean you are cut our for a legal career–it’s definitely not all glitz and glamour. One of the best ways for you to find out whether a paralegal career is the right choice for you is to put in some quality internship time. 

Greetings to you, the lucky finder of this Golden Ticket, from Mr Willy Wonka! I shake you warmly by the hand! Tremendous things are in store for you! Many wonderful surprises await you! ~Willy Wonka

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