Deb Ellis, Assistant Dean for Public Service, and director of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) recently published an article on the PSLawNet Blog on how to get the most out of summer internships.
Here is a brief excerpt:
From my perspective as both a public interest practitioner and now a law school counselor, I have developed eight tips based on what I look for when I hire: individuals who take initiative — who can figure out what needs to be done on their cases and projects. In short, I look for people who are proactive.
Sometimes students find that it takes a change of perspective to be proactive after a year spent in classrooms, where their role is more passive. But in the work world it is essential to take responsibility for your own learning. If you make that effort – to think through your priorities, contribute as much as you can to your employer, and be a team player – you will learn the most, and have the most fun, too.
Tip 1. Know your goals and be proactive in seeking out opportunities to accomplish them.
Early in the summer, identify what your goals are. Possible goals include:
- Creating a writing sample
- Strengthening legal research skills
- Observing court proceedings
- Developing client interview skills
- Representing a client at an administrative hearing
What should you do once you identify your goals? Because your first responsibility is to meet your employer’s needs, you have to be strategic – if you simply announce your goals, you will be viewed as self-absorbed and entitled. Many employers will make it easy by asking about your goals. But if they do not, you can still seek out opportunities to develop your skills. It may sound like a truism, but if we know our goals, we are more likely to look for ways to accomplish them. For example, if you want to create a writing sample and the employer gives you an option to write either an outline or a memo, you would choose to write the complete memo.
Identifying your priorities will give you the courage to volunteer for assignments that may seem intimidating. I recall, regretfully, how early in my career I passed up an opportunity to do a substantial argument in federal court because I thought I was too junior. Now I’ve learned that the only way to gain experience is to seize it!.
Read all the tips and the whole article at PSLawNet’s blog.