Introduction: Internships are an integral part of our law school experience and lay foundation for a good legal career. They give us on ground experience and a flavor of the real world. It is common for law students to feel nervous about internships; we often don’t know what to expect and how to go about effective learning to get full benefit of the experience. It’s a great opportunity to observe, interact and learn from experienced/senior lawyers and learn practical application of the law.
I have done various internships, which include corporate internships with Khaitan & Co. and AZB and Partners, litigation internship with senior counsel Mr. Pradeep Gandhy at the Bombay City Civil court and Dindoshi court and International Tax internship with Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. I have also received pre-placement offer from Khaitan & Co., Mumbai. Through this blog I am aiming at sharing my experience with these firms and senior counsel to give you an idea of what to expect during internships and how to go about it to make the best of your internship experience. What to expect When we intern with firms its important to keep in mind that we may not have work all the time. I have seen interns get restless and feel frustrated on days they don’t have work but this is part of the experience and all of us face it at some point. In our free time we can observe the people around us and their approach towards work, read articles and other important/landmark judgments. Also if you are looking to get placed with the firm/arguing counsel, its good to observe the work culture and the people and see how you like it. But most importantly, we need to be patient, work will come. Also, we must remember that we can learn a lot by simply observing our surroundings and through good reading. We should also go around and ask for work in our free time or drop in an email. However going around and asking for work could be more effective. You can also expect a lot of ‘due diligence’ related work initially. I remember getting a lot of due diligence work in the first two weeks of my internships. Due diligence can be a tedious task. Having to go through so many documents can be painful for some of us. But believe me it will really teach you patience and the skill of being thorough with your work. We will also get a lot of due diligence in the initial period of our law job so it is better to be prepared.
How to gain and learn maximum The following are some tips that I followed to make the best of my internship opportunity.
1. Eagerness to learn
We must always be eager to learn. Internships can be a very fulfilling and satisfying experience provided we have a learning attitude. You will learn at every step and grow with every assignment so keep a learning attitude and use your time fruitfully. This is a lifetime chance to observe, interact and learn from experienced and promising lawyers.
2. Seek clarifications As students we can feel nervous and intimidated in this new environment, amongst senior lawyers. When given an assignment, its appreciated that we seek clarifications and clear our doubts when feeling stuck. Please do not feel scared of asking questions; it is better to clarify our doubts than spend unnecessary time figuring it out on our own. It will be appreciated by the seniors. During one of my internships I remember having a co-intern who had a doubt while working on an assignment given by a Partner. She was not sure about what was to be done exactly but was too shy and nervous to ask him. She spent about a day on it but couldn’t find answers for the research. When she went to the Partner with her research, she realized that she had been working on the wrong thing all this while and the answer to the research was in the concerned bare act itself. She ended up wasting an entire day only because she was nervousto approach the Partner and seek necessary clarification. The Partner then explained to her that it is absolutely okay to ask questions and clear doubts and is much appreciated. Having said that, we must pay full attention whilegetting instructions in the first place and apply our own mind wherever required.
3. Finish your assignments in the given time One of the most important things to keep in mind is to try and finish your work on time. First lets understand the importance of this. You’re given a deadline because seniors too have work deadlines. They might need the research for a call with the client, which maybe scheduled on the same day as your deadline, or for an opinion that has to go out the same day. So please respect their time and work accordingly. This is a very important work ethic and will show your efficiency. It is also good to ask your senior when he wants the work in case he doesn’t mention. If you have two assignments simultaneously, you can inform the senior and focus your time/energyaccordingly.
4. Ask for extra time when absolutely required This is not something you should do often but if you feel like there is an absolute need for some more time to do proper job, you can politely ask for some more time. However we must not get into the habit of doing this often.
5. Be honest and diligent We must do our work diligently; make sure we have the right approach and conduct. Be sincere and honest and keep working diligently.
6. Good research Visit the library and have a look at the books available; referring books and commentaries helped me with better understanding and research. We must make sure to exhaust all the sources before presenting our research work. Attach relevant judgments/commentaries with relevant parts duly highlighted. It is also good to make a brief note stating our comments and analysis of the research work. If you find some other points that you think might be useful, it is good to attach it and is must appreciated. Quality research leaves a good impression.
7. Good formatting and presentation The first thing that leaves an impression on the mind of the reader is good formatting. It is important to present our work professionally/neatly. Any research or note that we prepare should be properly formatted. While formatting, we must focus on avoiding typos, justify and highlight/underline important points. It is advisable to write in the form of paragraphs and include appropriate headings to make it reader friendly. We must also make sure that our sentences are short and precise.
8. Make notes It is extremely important to make notes while they are instructing us. This will ensure we don’t miss out on any point and we can always go back to it when required or when in doubt. We must always carry a notebook and pen when we go around asking for work or while getting instructions.
9. Drafting emails Well-drafted emails leave a good impression. We must make sure there are no typos and content is justified. When asked to email our research, attach a summary of it in the form of a note. This note should also include all the sources we have referred while researching, what we were able to find and what you couldn’t, other relevant links and research material that we think might be useful. A well-drafted email will leave a good impression and will convey good communication skills.
10. Always ask for feedback Our main motive at any internship is to learn and refine our skills. One way to achieve it is by asking for feedback. Every time you’re given an assignment, please go and ask for feedback. Check with the person if you were able to provide with what was asked for or if there is anything that you’ve missed and if your approach was correct. This will be a great learning opportunity for doing better next time. In case we are not able to find what was asked for, we must go back after a day or two and ask them if they found it and how they went about it. Constructive feedback is very important for our learning and development. We should also keep in mind that at times seniors may not be available to give feedback immediately. In that case we can drop an email and check with them later. We must learn from the feedback, refine ourselves and do better next time. If you didn’t do well in an assignment, try and get another assignment from the same person and make sure you do better this time. Keep in mind the feedback you received for the first assignment and refine yourself. This will also ensure you get good feedback which will increase your confidence, job satisfaction and perhaps also your chances for Pre-placement Offer.
11. Interact with co-interns It is good to interact with co-interns and learn from them. You can even discuss work with them and exchange ideas.
12. Its okay to make mistakes Believe me when I say this but it is absolutely okay to make mistakes. This is a learning period for usand we are not expected to know everything. What is important is that we keep a learning attitude, refine ourselves and keep growing. So many seniors have said that even after so many years of practice, they at times make mistakes and learn and refine themselves every day.
13. Presentation Most firms have presentations at the end of the internship program. Presentations play a very important role if you are looking to get placed. Some key points to remember while preparing for your presentation include the following; keep it simple (your audience should be able to follow and understand what you are saying), your PPT should have short points (you can explain the rest), refer to books and commentaries while preparing for the presentation and not just information available on public domain. A good presentation is a good analysis of the subject; include real life examples and judgments to explain practical application, state loopholes and give appropriate suggestions. You can also include International perspective to add flavor. But most importantly be confident and do not stress, you will do the best you can.
14. Thank your team on the last day Please meet your team and Partners on the last day and thank them for this wonderful opportunity. They have guided us and taught us a lot during this journey and therefore we must express our gratitude.
15. Please share your honest feedback At times firms ask for your feedback at the end of the internship program. Please be honest and share your honest feedback with them. This will help them refine their program and provide better opportunities for future interns.
Conclusion Internship is a very enriching experience and sets foundation for our legal career. It helps in holistic development and prepares you for the real world. Be diligent and alert and try to gain the maximum you can. Also remember that this is your work place for next few months so don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the experience.
Visit her blog at https://buildinglegaltalent.wordpress.com/