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Law students commonly serve as interns in law offices and with judges. Whether it's paid or unpaid, these internships offer students an invaluable look into the professional lives of attorneys and judges. Each office has specific duties for its law interns, but there are some basic responsibilities interns can expect in most cases.
Watch and Learn
The main reason for seeking an internship is to learn more about how to be a lawyer. Observe your bosses carefully. See how they manage their time and how they change their mannerisms according to the situation. For example, an attorney can be aggressive when negotiating a contract one minute then switch quickly to being calm, understanding and comforting when meeting with a family in need of legal services. These are skills you aren't likely to learn in law school but that are invaluable when practicing law.
It's typical for law interns to spend much of their time researching a variety of items, including checking on precedents, past legislation or basic case fact-checking. When you've finished researching, you must relay that information to the lawyer or judge in writing, which helps you hone your legal writing skills. This could be drafting simple memos or adding your information to proposed legislation or a courtroom motion.
Even if you're not interested in criminal law or any type of trial law, helping during courtroom proceedings gives you an in-depth understanding of how the process works. You might be asked to prepare documents and files for mediation or sit second chair with the attorney during a trial. If you intern for a judge, he might ask you to retrieve relevant documents and listen in when he calls both attorneys to approach the bench.
Although you're likely to spend a good bit of your time gaining experience relevant to your future law career, you will also contribute to hours of administrative and clerical duties. Even if your position is paid, it's not likely to be paying a lot. Although it might often feel like drudgery, administrative tasks – answering the phone, making copies, filing documents– help you learn all aspects of what it takes to keep a law office running smoothly, which can help you when you work in your own firm.
Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.