Externships: What can be the highlight of some law school careers can also be the source of anxiety and dread when trying to snag one. In fact, externships can be as simple as attending an On-Campus Interview and getting snatched up by a great law firm, or as complex as vying for a position as a clerk in one of the nation’s elite federal courts.
To help you on your quest for the perfect externship, check out these ten tips from law students, just like you, around the nation.
10. Step outside the office.
You don’t have to go the traditional route of the externship office. There are countless other ways to secure an externship – and sometimes your future boss will put in the effort to get the externship paid while still receiving school credit.
9. Use your resources.
Some students hear about externship opportunities – and then get the ultimate introduction – from their favorite professors. Got your best grade in Contracts? Schedule a time after finals to chat with your professor and see what leads she might have for you.
8. Cold calling isn’t just for class.
Students reported success in snagging externships by calling firms directly and asking if they have a need for law clerks – it’s even more likely to work if you contact an alumnus from your school. Most boutique firms don’t even realize they need an extern. Show them why they do to make a position for yourself in their practice.
7. Connect with the unexpected.
Don’t be afraid to take internships that are adjacent to your biggest passion; you may be surprised and end up liking what you do. Even if you don’t like it, you’re building up your resume for your dream externship. If you apply to things outside of your comfort zone, you might find a new passion.
6. Put yourself out there.
If you don't meet all of the application requirements, apply anyway. Many students get externships – and sometimes future jobs – that, on the surface, appear to be out of reach. One word of caution: There is an art to knowing when to fight for what you want and knowing when to move on to the next opportunity.
5. Follow the Golden Rule.
Be nice. To everyone. A fellow student may end up recommending you for an externship because you shared your outline…or they may keep you from getting a job because you aren’t nice to your peers.
Never be afraid to reach out to people with whom you’ve built relationships to let them know about your interests, ask for advice, or just chat about your mutual passion for the law.
4. Expand your horizons.
Doing law-related things outside of school can be both satisfying for your mental health and also lead to an externship where your passions lie. Not only do you meet other legal professionals who share your goals, but it’s easier to stand out from the crowd.
3. Opposites attract.
Have you ever thought of going behind enemy lines? One student who is a vegan and champions animal rights says she worked for her state’s fish and wildlife commission, which issues hunting and fishing licenses. She was able to see both sides of the issue, and left with amazing references and a really solid conversation starter with potential future employers.
2. Be a social butterfly.
Be active (appropriately) on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media platforms that could potentially be seen by future employers. Being active in #LawTwitter, or posting mini blogs on LinkedIn, can give you that extra exposure that will set you apart from the rest.
1. Work that network.
Never be afraid to reach out to people with whom you’ve built relationships to let them know about your interests, ask for advice, or just chat about your mutual passion for the law. So much can bloom organically from real conversations, and even a guaranteed reference is a great takeaway from a causal meeting.
Dayna Maeder is a 3L at Florida State University College of Law and Editor-in-Chief of the American Bar Association Law Student Division. She enjoys spending time with her family, attending live music events, and performing pro bono work at the Public Interest Law Center.