I, like most of my fellow lawyers in training, am working as a legal intern this summer. Actually, I’m working at two law offices as two legal interns for two lawyers.
So what is this mysterious creature, a legal intern? What are it’s habits, and needs, and what on earth do they do all day? Well, I’ll give you the low-down on what it really means to be a legal intern.
Being a legal intern means you are actually encouraged to get a new job every 3-6 months because you get more experience and beef up your resume.
It means learning a new filing and labeling system, new motion writing methods, and new office practices every 3-6 months, and then getting criticized every time you make a mistake. (Do they underline or italicize case names in this office? I can’t remember! But I’ll get to do it all over again when I guess wrong.)
It means we need to try to fit in with our supervising attorneys’ wardrobes, who make six-figures, while making minimum wage or less (some of us do all of this and not only get no paycheck, but we are actually paying for the credits we earn there).
Legal interns get the questions that none of the other attorneys can figure out, and after spending hours in the library or on Westlaw, we still look stupid when our basic research skills don’t yield any fruit.
It means we write and print a lot of drafts of A LOT of letters, send more certified mail than you can imagine, and throw out 95% of what we produce. We are basically the earth’s worst enemy.
It means that we can easily spend all the money we earned that day in gas, parking meters at the courthouses, and paying for copies of documents. But we have to get copies of everything because 1) our freaking backwards country has not digitized everything yet and 2) if we miss the one thing that makes the difference, we have to come back and do it all over again. When in doubt, GET A COPY!
Legal interns know how awkward it is when we sit in on your meetings and court appearances, but we really appreciate it because it makes so much more sense to watch a lawyer work than it does to read about it in a book.
It means that some days we basically surf Facebook and the news all day, while other days we are so swamped we forget to go to eat.
It means we spend half our time thinking our bosses have the best job in the world, and the other half thinking that we will never, ever go into this type of practice.
It means we mostly just wish we paid a lot more attention to personal versus subject matter jurisdiction in Civil Procedure, and can’t believe Property Law was SO LONG AGO BECAUSE I CAN’T CUSSING REMEMBER ANYTHING!
It means we actually can tell you how important it is to have a will and get an attorney, but not in any specific way because we’re sworn to secrecy. Literally. I can’t even tell you how frustrating it is to know exactly all the bad stuff that can happen in any given situation, but not being able to warn you.
It means that we handle on a regular basis more cash and check deposits than we make in a year. No biggie.
It means we can take no credit for the good stuff we do and get blamed when everything goes wrong. (Devil Wears Prada much?)
It means I do realize how pale I look, and that I don’t get nearly as much exercise as you kids working at the bar, but I only have three months to work full-time and learn hands-on how to be a lawyer, so no, I can’t take a day off to go to the beach with you. I’m sorry.
It means that most of the time we are lightyears ahead of our bosses in terms of how to use a computer, but we still can’t remember how to make a proper heading without using an older motion.
It means we are constantly playing catch-up, trying to cover our massive insecurities, and trying to fake it till we make it, hoping and tripping the whole way that we will someday know what the cuss we’re talking about.