While law firm internships are quite common at large law firms, small firms often tend to overlook them. A position in law has long been among the gold standards for career success. For millions of young Australians, this represents their aim, a goal that marks the culmination of years of academic and professional development—bringing together textbook learning to the practical learning environment.
Your small law firm can greatly benefit from hiring an intern. First, it’s a great path to test-drive a long-term hire. Second, law firm interns can handle the research and administrative work that takes away from a seasoned lawyer’s time.
So how do you find and hire your law firm’s intern? Follow these helpful tips:
Carefully consider why and how you will work with an intern.
It might be easy to think, “Hey, we’ll hire an intern to do all the busy work around here,” but it’s important to have a firm idea of what you want an intern to do and how it will benefit your firm as well as the law student. It is best to plan out their first few assignments and identify upcoming projects. Prepare specific tasks and goals for your intern, so their time is not wasted.
Decide how many interns you need.
It might sound enticing to hire several interns but consider the reality and value of their workload. Interns shouldn’t waste their time on non-legal or administrative work. If this is the first time you are hiring an intern, it’s best to start with just one, learn from the experience and see if you want to continue the program.
Don’t wait to find your intern.
According to GradAustralia, with the summer university break being longer than other semester breaks, organisations generally offer longer opportunities over the summer period. Every business will have different arrangements, of course, but summer internships can run for a full three months, whereas winter placements are usually no longer than four weeks.
Choose a first or second-year law student.
While a first-year law student may be greener, these interns can handle legal research or draft routine pleadings and documents because such documents don’t significantly vary from matter to matter. A second-year law student may be able to draft parts of more substantial pleadings, like motions to dismiss, all of course done under the watchful supervision of lawyers.
Look for an intern interested in your area of law.
Hire an intern who shares an interest in your area of the law to keep them engaged in the work, as this leads to the potential of hiring this intern when they graduate.
Once hired, it can be challenging to train, monitor and mentor your interns, particularly if your firm is wholly or partially remote. So having patience and taking the time to answer their questions is important.
Leverage law firm technology tools.
Smokeball’s Workflows and Document Automation put the tools for training and onboarding your law firm’s intern at your fingertips. Interns have a clear view of your actual processes, expectations and deadlines with Workflows, and Document Automation helps them pull and complete the proper legal forms more quickly.
Develop clear deadlines for each task, as well as how long you think the work should take. If your intern needs extra time, tell them to inform you as soon as possible.
Smokeball’s Automatic Time Tracking and Firm Insights also help monitor your law firm intern’s efforts, showing you the numbers behind every matter they touch. This data allows you to see where your intern is succeeding and struggling and provide better coaching and mentoring.
Hiring a summer intern can be a real asset to your small law firm — provided you build a specific plan of action and put the right tools in place to ensure your intern’s success. And if you find a perfect fit, the right intern can quickly turn into the right long-term hire.