How to Get a Law Internship as an Undergraduate

Your undergraduate years are a great time to have a legal internship.

If you’ve already decided that you want to work as a legal intern, you need to figure out how to go about getting a law internship.

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to find the right legal internship.

Learning about what to expect in an internship and how to approach the application process can help you make your search a successful one.

What Are Law Interns?

Law interns are people who work for a law firm or other employer in the legal profession for a fixed period of time.

They might work for pay, and they might work for free.

They perform some of the functions that attorneys, paralegals, and legal secretaries perform each day at the firm.

The purpose of an undergraduate law internship is twofold.

A legal internship is beneficial for both the law firm and the intern.

The law firm has an extra person on staff to lend their skills and creativity.

They can perform valuable work for the firm’s clients.

The internship is also a good chance for the employer to see if the intern is a good fit for the company.

For you, an undergraduate legal internship is a great opportunity for exposure to the legal profession.

A legal internship can give you the opportunity to grow your skills in an interesting industry.

Many people find legal work interesting.

You can use the internship to help you narrow down your career choices.

It’s also a great resume builder for later when you apply for jobs.

What Do Law Interns Do?

Law interns might perform complicated legal work under the supervision of an attorney.

They might draft documents and perform complex legal research using research tools.

Law interns may prepare and organize files.

They might see to it that important documents get filed with the court.

They may also interact with clients by sitting in on client meetings or answering phones.

When you’re a law intern, you’re immediately an important part of your law firm’s efforts.

How Do I Find an Internship?

Perhaps the hardest part of getting an internship as an undergraduate is finding the right place to apply.

You need to find a law firm that’s interested in taking an undergraduate internship.

You can certainly send a resume to every law firm in town, but there are other things you can do too.

You’ve probably read that you need to network.

If you don’t have any friends who are lawyers, hearing that word from one more person can be enough to cause frustration.

Don’t worry, there are still things you can do.

The first step to finding an internship is letting friends know that you’re looking for one.

Put the word out on social media.

Tell your friends and family.

You might not know any lawyers personally, but your friends and family might.

Look at Small Companies

While television might give you the impression that everyone works for a big law firm, the vast majority of law firms are actually small.

You might find that you have more luck securing an internship with a small firm.

A firm with only one or a few lawyers may be eager to have the help.

Smaller firms tend to be less formal.

They might be more able to take you on and create a custom program for you than a large firm with rigid, inflexible rules.

Ask Your School Career Center

Your school’s career center may also have some ideas for you.

They might know of local attorneys who are eager to work with undergraduate interns.

You might also get a list of alumni who are attorneys.

These alumni might be eager to help fellow students explore and launch their careers.

Other Ideas

The purpose of an internship search is to get your information and your resume out to people who are likely to be interested in you.

In addition to small firms and checking with your career center, you might contact firms in your hometown or in the town where you go to school.

Finally, don’t be afraid of rejection.

It only takes one person to say yes.

How Do I Nail the Interview?

Dress the Part

When you go to your interview, the people who are evaluating you want to know that you’re going to be a good fit for their organization.

Practicing law is a serious business.

In most cases, that also means that law firm dress codes are quite serious.

Now is the time to invest in a nice suit.

Make sure that your hair is neatly trimmed and groomed.

You want the law firm to see that you can present the image that they want clients to see.

If the law firm is casual, it’s still best to err on the side of formal dress at your interview.

Dressing formally says that you take the internship seriously and that you’re able to dress appropriately if you get the internship.

Think Through Common Interview Questions in Advance

While you might get a few surprises, a lot of interview questions are common.

You can arrive at your interview prepared by reviewing a few common questions in advance:

  • What makes you interested in working at a law firm?
  • Can you type and use a computer?
  • Have you ever worked with law firm research tools like LexisNexis or Westlaw?
  • Tell me about a time you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with.
  • Can you tell me about a time when you’ve failed? How did you handle it?
  • We work under tight deadlines. Can you tell me about a time that you had to meet a short deadline? How did you handle it?
  • What are you hoping to learn from this internship?

Ask the Right Questions

You have a chance to ask questions too.

You should always take advantage of the chance to ask questions because it shows that you’re interested in the law firm and the work.

Here are a few good questions to ask your interviewers:

  • What will a typical day be like for me?
  • Do I work primarily for one person, or will I work for everyone?
  • What do you like about working for this law firm?
  • What are the most challenging parts of your job?
  • What kinds of hours will I be working? (If you have classes and you can’t work full time, it’s important to establish this upfront.)
  • If you were starting your legal career over again, is there anything you wish you had known?

Why Get a Law Internship As an Undergraduate?

If you’re thinking about a career in law, a law internship as an undergraduate is a great way to explore your options.

If you try it and decide you don’t like it, you can save yourself three years of law school tuition and the frustration of a career that isn’t a good fit.

An undergraduate law internship can help you explore options within the legal profession.

Not all legal professionals are lawyers at law firms.

You might decide that you’re a great fit to be a lawyer.

If that’s the case, your internship can help you explore your options for what type of law you’d like to focus on.

On the other hand, you might decide that you’re a better fit to be a paralegal or a legal secretary.

There are also important legal careers to be had within the court system.

You might work as a judicial clerk or as a Friend of the Court personnel.

With the exposure that you get to the legal profession as an undergraduate, you can begin to narrow down your interests and get on the fast track to a career that’s a good fit.

Making the Most of Your Undergraduate Years

An undergraduate education is for learning career skills as well as for exploring career opportunities.

That makes it a great time to have an internship at a law firm.

Law firms are often eager to have help and show you the ropes.

Taking the time to search in the right ways and prepare for your interviews can help you land the right undergraduate legal.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Delaware2,660- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
District of Columbia33,610$226,510$108.9$#$118,980
New Hampshire1,810$130,130$62.56$225,040$66,040
New Jersey23,010$163,690$78.70$#$80,530
New Mexico3,480$110,970$53.35$196,740$60,330
New York86,230$188,900$90.82$#$80,850
North Carolina14,150$146,890$70.62$#$58,430
North Dakota1,120$120,780$58.07$206,890$64,350
Rhode Island**$156,300$75.14$234,420$80,460
South Carolina7,940$115,230$55.40$205,430$51,140
South Dakota1,080$109,190$52.50$198,580$59,140
West Virginia2,400$122,070$58.69$225,080$50,150
Puerto Rico3,820$68,970$33.16$104,760$27,010
Virgin Islands200- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $226,510.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • District of Columbia - $226,510
  • California - $201,530
  • Massachusetts - $196,230
  • New York - $188,900
  • Connecticut - $174,520
  • Colorado - $168,680
  • Nevada - $166,740
  • Texas - $166,620
  • Georgia - $165,560
  • New Jersey - $163,690
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Lawyers, OCC Code 23-1011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

One Response to How to Get a Law Internship as an Undergraduate

  1. Avatar
    Jennifer Russo #

    That’s a lot of work but I think in the end, it is worth it. I am an undergrad myself and I want to pursue being a lawyer someday. I do not want to get my hopes up but at least I can try, right?

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