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BY MO CHANMUGHAM, ESQ.
7 Smart Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer Legal Internship

Summer can fly by when you are a busy legal intern. Here are seven ways to make the most of that time and leave your summer internship on a high note.

1. Put yourself out there 

As an intern, it’s easy to hide behind all that legal research and writing you have to do, but it is also important to get out from behind your desk and spend time with your co-workers. Getting to know people can start with a simple hello in the morning or inviting another intern out for an afternoon walk to grab a coffee.

These seemingly small gestures and interactions can lead to better relationships in the office as well as after you leave. And it all helps you build your professional network. As the old saying goes, “People do business with people they like.” So try getting to know your co-workers and give them a chance to like you!

2. Go to lunch with your boss 

Speaking of building relationships during your summer internship, going to lunch with your boss and interacting with them outside the office gives you both the chance to get to know each other on a personal level. You won’t be limited to talking about legal research findings and client cases either! Rather, you can learn about your boss’s career path and personal background, and you can share your own legal aspirations and interests.

As you build your legal career, it is important to have mentors and close connections with senior attorneys who can not only provide great career advice but also write recommendations, should you need them.

3. Stay on top of your assignments 

Throughout your summer internship, you will almost certainly work on multiple assignments. They may come from different supervisors and have distinct due dates as well. Make sure you have a solid system that will help you keep track of everything you are working on, including the name of the project, the person who assigned it to you, a description of what it entails, deadlines, and any other relevant information.

You might use a productivity app or project management tool like Trello, Todoist, or Wunderlist or a simple spreadsheet. Use whatever works best for you—just stick with it! At the end of the summer, this assignment tracker will be a great tool for you to review with your supervisor to update them on the status of your assignments, and to tie up any loose ends before you leave. In addition, it demonstrates how organized and detail-oriented you are, which will impress any employer. Lastly, you can use it to update your résumé at the end of the summer.

4. Get a good writing sample 

As a lawyer, your writing skills are always on display, whether it's a client letter, research memo, court pleading, or article. That's why potential employers are bound ask for writing samples to evaluate your qualifications during the hiring process.

This summer think about which of your internship writing assignments would be writing sample worthy, and get permission from your employer to use them in the future. Keep in mind you might have to redact confidential or identifying information!

5. Ask for feedback—good and bad 

Summer internships are invaluable learning experiences and critical opportunities for professional growth. You'll also only have a few chances in law school to intern, so a bad summer internship can be a big setback to your overall learning and progress. A simple way to avoid having a bad intern experience is to be proactive about feedback.

Ask your internship supervisor for honest critiques on your work and overall performance. If you sense things aren’t going well, you should come up with a strategy for making things right and schedule a time to talk about it with your boss. Address your concerns and ask how you can improve your performance. By opening up a dialogue before things get worse, you can save your summer internship and come out feeling good about your experience.

6. Have an exit interview 

In case your summer internship doesn’t have a formal exit interview process, you should set up your own informal version. Ask your boss for a 30-minute meeting during the last week of your internship to discuss your overall experience and performance and to get their parting feedback. This way you will end on a strong note. It also sends a message that you are a professional, who is eager to learn and grow. Your boss is sure to remember these qualities, should you maintain your relationship in the future (and you should maintain the relationship!).

7. Send a thank you card 

Once the internship is over, a great way to close out your summer experience is to send your boss (and anyone else you had a meaningful, professional connection with) a thank you card. Express your appreciation for the opportunity to work there and learn from them. Sending a thank you card in the mail is a rare thing these days, and doing so will also show your boss that you are thoughtful and willing to go the extra mile.

Your summer internship experience is an incredibly important stepping stone in your legal career and law school education. You want to make sure you make the most of this experience to keep your career moving in the right direction. By following these seven tips, you can be sure that you took control of the experience and gave it your best effort.

Mo Chanmugham is the Senior Associate Director of Career Services at New England Law | Boston. He ensures students and alumni have the necessary training and tools to find fulfilling postgraduate employment.

Explore internships and other real-world opportunities available to New England Law students during the summer and all year round.