You did it! You landed that summer legal job! Hooray and congratulations! You might be interning at the public defender’s office or perhaps clerking for a judge. Or maybe you’re working at a local law firm as a summer associate or with a legal-aid agency. Whatever summer legal job you may have, you’ll want to make the most out of it. Below are 10 tips for maximizing your upcoming work experience.
1. Dress code.
Check out the dress code…ahem…before the first day. When in doubt, dress professionally.
2. Attitude — the little big difference.
Show enthusiasm for the job and let folks know you are appreciative of the fact you got the position. Smiles and friendly greetings are always in style.
3. Office support staff.
Treat these folks with respect and courtesy. You’ll also discover a wealth of information at the fingertips of paralegals, secretaries, librarians, and other support staff . Need a research tip or shortcut? Want to know how to present your work? Wondering how to do those court filings? They can be your best friend!
4. Work product.
Produce an excellent work product every time. Refresh your legal research knowledge and writing skills before you start. Be sure you understand what you’ve been asked to do. Carry a notepad for writing down instructions. Do not miss deadlines! And remember, some research questions have no definite answer.
5. Know your limits.
If you try to do too much, you can find yourself overloaded. Don’t be afraid to turn down assignments.
6. Be proactive.
Shake off your shrinking violet. Get face-to-face time with the lawyers, judges, and staff where you work. Seek out opportunities to go to court, attend brown-bag lunches, and sit in on meetings.
Ask questions! It’s okay to admit you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why you’re there — to learn. Remember, people aren’t mind readers.
8. Embrace the learning curve.
You aren’t expected to know everything. It’s your inexperience that’s expected. Work conditions may not be ideal or what you’re used to. Your employer will watch to see how well you meet the unfamiliar. Flexibility is key.
9. Common sense — use it.
Demonstrate a level of maturity. Be professional in your demeanor — including at any social functions or events you might attend.
10. It’s not just another summer job.
This is your first (or second) opportunity to “practice” law. It’s also a chance to leave a meaningful impression. You might think of your summer legal job as one very long interview — with the potential for job offers and recommendations when it’s over.
That’s the long of it. The short of it comes from a wise woman I used to know who often said: “work hard and be nice — and you’ll do just fine.” And, so you will.