This is a guest post written by Ayushi Gupta, a law graduate from Nirma University, Ahmedabad. She has recently started working with a firm in Mumbai.
Before I even begin with how you should make the best out of an internship, it is important to get into the why of it. Majority of students including myself often bag a four-weeks internship which is too short a time to understand the workings of the firm, get to know people and convert it into a fruitful learning experience. This has been a roadblock for me throughout all my internships.
Are you someone who doesnot know how to strike up a conversation with associates in a law firm? Do you want to learn the tricks which can get you the recommendation of partner? Do you wish to stand out in your internship? If your answer to the following questions is yes, then I feel you.
When I was in my second year of law school I was as clueless as any student would be about working in a law firm. During my first law firm internship the partner rebuked me because I had only used PFA in the email body. To get scolded in front of the firm for something as small as an email was embarrassing. Atleast I thought it was trivial, it is now I realized how valuable are the e-mail writing skills. It then hit me how unprepared I was. The only silver lining was that the same partner recommended me for internship to other law firm.
If only I had received enough guidance, I would have performed 2x times at my internship. To reap the full benefits of your internship, you have to be prepared well for what lies ahead of you. If you’re someone who is looking to make good connections or want to maximize your chances of getting a PPO then this post is for you.
Punctuality is not a myth!
I always show up at the office at least half an hour before the business even gets started. In this extra time, I go through my pending work, in case of no work I read about the latest developments in the field. In my opinion, it is much better to do something rather sit idle. In my past internships, I have also utilized this time to interact with the associate and principal associate. Even a minute or two minutes interaction has helped me to break the ice for people to remember me. As they say, there is no dearth of interns in law firms every month.
One time I luckily got the chance to work with a partner because there were no interns available in the office. While there could be several reasons for this one reason could be law firms don’t usually work on specified set of timings. One day I could be working late nights, other day I could be working on weekends. Therefore, being at the right place at the right time sometimes help.
Work, Work, Work!
When I was an intern my approach was always to deliver the excellent work product. Whether I am proofreading an agreement or preparing a case summary or doing other clerical work my mindset has always been ‘let my work speak for itself’. So far this has worked out well for me.
During one of my internships, the associate liked my work so much that she sent out the mail to me cc’d it to partner, who was in charge of hiring, appreciating for my work. Later, it became easier for me to navigate through the awkward conversation for a call back internship with the same partner. This is just one example of how my work has done wonders for me.
Coming from a small town with no command over English I initially lacked the confidence to engage in a friendly conversation with people in the firm. I was too busy contemplating ‘what if I offend someone’ or ‘what should I talk about’ that I never used to take the initiative to reach out to people. I was ignorant and this reflected badly on my personality. One of the associates at a tier 1 law firm told me interns who do not sit with their team during lunch are considered arrogant. She suggested interns should ‘smart’ enough to build good relationships while maintaining the boundaries. This was a wake-up call for me and therefore I decided to get out of my comfort zone and put myself out.
How to start a conversation with people in the firm who are working round the clock? What should one talk about without sounding desperate or pushy? Initially, when I used to sit with my team during lunch hours, I used to observe and silently listen to the conversations going on at the table. Eventually, I started giving out my opinion on topics I knew well and were of interest to me. Mind you, I was careful of what I used to say and never blurted out anything which was too controversial.
Few subjects for a conversation starter could be talking about your law school,previous internships, areas of interest and hometown to name a few. If you are new to the city you could ask them about the city, good places to hang out or eat out and let them know where you are staying. In one of my recent internship I had a chance to attend the winter party of the firm. I developed good relations with one of the associates and later she helped me out in my job search. This was the best place for people to know me outside of my work personality.
Additionally, staying in touch with the people I connected is where networking gets tricky. I ensure that I connect with those people on LinkedIn. I make it a point to wish them on their important occasion be it birthdays or any of their achievements.
In one of the times, I shared my research paper which I had worked on during my internship to the associate of the firm post my internship. This is one of my hacks to remain in touch with people. One could also ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn from someone he/she closely worked with. I am a believer of ‘if you do not ask the answer is always going to be no’.When it comes to Networking there is no set formula. These are a few ways which worked for me you can devise your ways and accordingly build your own professional network.
Be a professional
In a professional set up the way you conduct yourself, your body language, the way you dress speaks volumes about your personality. One time an associate remarked me for the teeny tiny food stain which I got on my shirt during lunch. The same associate told me her team is hesitant of girls who come to the office with wet hair. This incident stayed with me since then. Thus, I ensure that I look presentable. I choose to wear plain clothes instead of printed ones. I never wear dark lipstick on my lips. I always blow dry my hair if it is wet. There are several other do’s and don’ts available online which one could adhere to.
However,professionalism is not limited to your attire. It should reflect in the work as well. I always triple check my email, research notefor any grammatical errorsbefore hitting send. It goes without saying timely submission of work is vital.
I speak clearly and communicate well. I never forget to ask for feedback from people I worked with at the end of my internship.
Dedication and Eagerness to learn
Though the importance of quality work cannot be undermined, it is not to forget that not all research questions have specific answers. There are too many grey areas and sometimes it becomes hard, even for an associate to find the exact case law that fits their legal situation. In that case, your efforts count. When I do not have the exact answer for the research, I research the five other things I found on the internet related to the situation at hand. This shows that I have done thorough research and creates a good impression on the person.
While I am working at the office, I never use instagram, facebook or other social media apps. Instead to take some time off from work I used to take small coffee breaks once in a while.In case of any emergency call, I take that call outside of the office.
In one of my tier-1 firm internships I built great rapport with the senior associate of the firm. He liked how I was going extra mile to deliver the good work product. In the end he referred me for an internship of the same firm in their Mumbai office. Believe me, if you give your 500% people will see through it.
In the end, securing a PPO is not the end of the world, learning and getting a good exposure, maintaining good relationships with people can pay you off in ways that you didn’t think would do.
If you like this post there is a Part-2 coming along. Stay tuned for it!
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