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How can you to convert your dream internship into a job offer?

Almost every law student wants to land one great internship, which he or she can then convert into a job offer. Often, while studying in college, getting an internship at a great law firm is considered to be the important thing – how to go about converting it into a job offer is not given much thought to. Many law students are unable to convert their internships at prestigious law firms into lucrative job offers. If you don’t think about it enough and plan it well, conversion into a job offer is not a natural outcome.

Here, I will talk about converting internships into viable career options – I formerly worked with Trilegal, Mumbai and am an NUJS alumnus (some of you may already know me). Internships are a great opportunity for law students – if they are utilized optimally, they can be used to great advantage for one’s career. Internships are hugely misunderstood by law students today – many law students are not aware of how they can use an internship experience, and often end up blaming the organization they intern at for not giving them the right kind of work.

The essential obstacle in benefiting from an internship opportunity is to have the right mindset – most law students do not have the right mindset and expectations when they start interning. They expect an internship to automatically help them gain practical experience and think that building a CV which showcases internships at several of the best law firms is the simplest hack for getting a law firm job.

I think this is a good time to share my personal experience with respect to law firm internships. I am sharing my thoughts with all of you at once because these days I see law students aspiring to develop an expertise in commercial law and pursue law firm internships from very early on, irrespective of which year they are studying in.

When I interned at a law firm, I realized that law school was not teaching me (or my friends who were interning with me at law firms) everything I needed to know to perform well in an internship. I saw that associates were very hesitant to give work to interns – I sensed discomfort with delegation. Are they bad at delegation? No. It’s more because interns are there for a very short time so associates do not want to invest much effort in training them, because they know that the interns will be gone soon.

Delegation also carries another risk – the organization you interned at may have to face the consequences of a mistake (may be from an angry client) made by an intern much after his internship is over. There is nobody the organization can attribute responsibility to, in such a case. Therefore, in the perception of the organization, there is an accountability deficit when they are handing work to interns.

What’s the way out? Inspiring faith and confidence in an internship is very important. You need to do this as early as possible. In an internship of four to six weeks, you barely have much time to achieve this. Therefore, you cannot afford to spend your own sweet time learning the law in an internship. True, learning is a wonderful experience, and you may enjoy an internship, but if you want the law firm to call you back in future for another internship, or if you want to bag a pre recruitment offer or an interview, you can’t afford to treat this like an experiment. In other words, you need to walk into an internship well-prepared.

The prevailing hack for acing internships

Now here’s the real answer – those who are your seniors or who have done well will advise you to read ‘pink’ newspapers (Economic Times, Business Standard, etc.) or to look up the FDI Policy or RBI circulars. They may make it sound incredibly simple, but when you try to learn this, it may not work for you at all. Generation after generations of law students have been handed this advice – “just read some business newspaper” – but it doesn’t work. When you go to the SEBI or RBI website it may look like a jungle. You manage to comprehend that in a real-life situation, if you can pull out the relevant provision of a circular and follow what it says, you should be safe. However, making head or tails out of it may not be easy. You may not even know which materials are relevant for your analysis. You can’t use all these circulars and news items to make sense of the system, let alone think like a business lawyer.

Let’s think about your seniors again. They have been there, done that. Was it really that simple for them? They were probably equally worried when they were in your position, but in hindsight, it looks simple to them, because it worked out for them in the end. Does it work out for everyone? Not at all. Some people figure out their way one way or the other, and many others miss out on opportunities, run out of time or just give up in the face of difficulty.

In that case, do you really want to take that risk? You enrolled in law school to build a worthwhile career for yourself. You have already spent (or are planning to spend) a lot of money, time, effort and other resources on your education. If you realized that your current education is great, but insufficient to provide you adequate industry skills, will you add the missing pieces to make it work, or would you let it all fall apart? Will you take positive steps to improve your chances, or will you resign yourself to a directionless process?
This is our bet on you

Did you think of the possibility that your skill level could be significantly better than most of your peers and even your seniors? What if you know business law better than the average junior associates in law firms? There are bright associates who have broken industry norms to become senior associates in under 3 years, and risen to partnership in under 5 years at the best law firms.

There are other independent practitioners whose practice is thriving within two years of starting out. They too followed someone’s footsteps, but in many cases managed to outperform their gurus. What is the secret of their success? What if you could learn from them and emulate them?

Anything is possible, if you have the courage to be aggressive and go for it. Of course, you need the skills to back up your courage and ambition.

As George Bernard Shaw said “Shakespeare is a much taller man than I, but I stand on his shoulders.”

- by Ramanuj Mukherjee, Co-founder, iPleaders

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