Many students complete their LL.M. program in one year and graduate in the spring, so the summer can be a good time to explore a new career path with an internship. Even if it’s not structured as a formal summer program, many law firms and other organizations offer legal internships, including for graduates of LL.M. programs.
For these candidates, it often makes sense to gain some additional work experience and income over the summer, to repay tuition fees, alongside other pursuits such as studying for a bar exam.
“Choosing the right internship can allow you not only to gain a new set of skills but also you can turn your internship into a full-time position,” says Yazmyne Vasquez Eterovic, Associate Director in the Office of Career and Professional Development at University of Miami School of Law.
The perfect fit: choosing the right internship
An internship is a major investment of time for both the student and the host, so what are the best strategies that LL.M. candidates can use for choosing the right summer internship for them?
Focus on opportunities that will provide significant amounts of substantive work and learning, says Anthony Agolia, Senior Director of International and Non-J.D. Programs at Fordham Law School in New York.
“The main goal should be to pick up as much practical experience and knowledge as possible. Some larger organizations are so well staffed that they may not need interns to do substantive work. Those opportunities might look good on a resume, but might be light on actual experience,” he warns.
Additionally, ask yourself if you can envision a long-term employment situation arising from the internship, as well as whether the person you are interviewing with is going to be your supervisor.
“People send signals through nonverbal communication and we experience strong emotional reactions to them without always knowing why. Be wary of bias, but be attentive to your gut reactions during interviews,” Agolia stresses.
Securing a competitive summer placement
How can LL.M. students make best use of the resources available to them at law school to apply and land a competitive internship? The first step is to compile a list of attorneys and firms that are doing the kind of work that you want to do. “The second step is figuring out how to get them to focus on your resume,” adds Agolia.
At Miami Law, LL.M. students have access to the Office of Career and Professional Development. “An experienced career advisor, exclusively dedicated to foreign-trained law students, assists with job searches and professional development needs, including one-on-one training on networking, resume and cover-letter writing, interviewing skills, mock interviews and career fairs,” says Eterovic.
“The goal is to teach skills and help our students establish their career goals and to understand the employment market,” she adds. “Our career advisor works with our students from the beginning of their studies until they graduate, and beyond.”
What should LL.M. candidates be doing to prepare for their summer internships, so they can hit the ground running on the first day? By doing their homework on the firm and the lawyers they will be working with before the internship begins, law schools say.
“Students will be doing this research as they prepare for an interview anyway, but once the offer is in hand they should continue learning as much as possible,” Agolia stresses.
“Visit the organization’s website and look at their newsroom, look at the attorney bio pages, and get a feel for the different practice areas. Do a broad web search to see if there have been any profile matters recently. The more information you bring with you on the first day, the better positioned you are to impress the team.”
Turning an internship into a full-time job offer
Securing an LL.M. internship is relatively easy, but getting hired in the right role is less so. Turning that internship into a full-time job will require a lot of work, determination, and perseverance.
“While completing their internship, students need to always be prepared, have an excellent command of the English language, be very proactive, manage time wisely, and avoid silly mistakes,” says Eterovic.
If they are done with their assignments and they have time, they should ask for more projects to show the employer that they are efficient and effective. That may suggest they will be a great addition to the firm on a full-time basis.
“In addition, they need to get to know the culture and values of the employer so that they can be a great fit. Know who is who in the team and identify key stakeholders,” Eterovic says. “Finally, students need to always welcome feedback since it is a gift and there is always room for improvement.”