In-house counsel positions are coveted for many reasons: their hours are more predictable, they can engage in business strategy and decisions, and they work for only one client. You might be wondering what being an in-house attorney is really like, and want to get some experience working as in-house summer intern. Or, you have decided to go in-house straight out of law school and are looking for the perfect company to start your career. Here are some tips to help you search for in-house summer internship positions and perform well at the interviews.
Finding an internship
Search for and apply broadly to positions interesting to you
Keep an eye out for internship postings on your school’s career services portal. Also remember that some companies may not reach out to your school’s career services office, and only put up internship openings on their “Careers” webpages. Sometimes employment search engines might pick up the openings and create a separate post. If you have specific companies in mind, you should spend some time on their websites and various career sites, in order to make sure you do not miss any opportunities.
Craft a strong and specific application
Differentiate your application by being specific about why you want to intern at this company. Draw on your past experiences, current endeavors, and personal interests, making connections in terms of similar subject matter and skills. Incorporating key phrases in the internship description into your materials is a great way to show that your values align with those of the company.
Do some quick, preliminary research
At this stage, you can quickly skim the company’s website, reviewing the mission statement, “About” page, news, and press releases. This allows you to further tailor your application materials to the company and make a stronger case for why you should move forward to the next stage.
Preparing for Interviews
Do more research on the company
Start with googling the company’s name and the words “legal department.” Sometimes there is a company webpage that explains the work of its legal team. If not, familiarize yourself with the company itself. By understanding its services or products and the industry it is in, you can deduce the types of legal work the in-house team may be called to work on. You can also google the company’s name and the words “lawsuit” or “litigation,” and you should be able to pull up and read recent legal matters involving the company.
Connect with friends or family who work for the company
Each company has a unique culture. A great way to understand a company as a workplace is to chat with someone who works there. If you are interviewing with a larger company, there is a good chance that someone you know may be employed there, or they know someone who is. You can ask around or check your connections on Linkedin. Then, offer to chat over coffee or lunch and ask for insight and advice. If this person does not work in the legal department, you can ask how their team or supervisor might interact with the in-house attorneys. Referring to these conversations during your interview shows that you took the initiative to learn more about the company and reflected on how you would be a good fit.
Look up your interviewers’ bios
If you were given your interviewers’ names (and you should ask for it if it was not provided), pull up their bio and get to know their background. There is no need to feel uncomfortable admitting that you “stalked” them. Their public information was meant to be seen! You can signal that you understand a bit about their background by saying, “I read your bio and know that…” Rather than making things awkward, you just might find that you can quickly develop a sense of connection and camaraderie with your interviewer, especially if you have some things in common. Knowing where they went to school, where they started their legal career, and their professional achievements can also help you with brainstorming questions.
Use anecdotes and past projects to highlight your interest in the company
Being specific helps the interviewer to understand your desire to work at the company. You can talk about your personal connection to the company, such as through the consistent use of its products, or past projects that involved skills transferable to the internship setting, such as reading about corporate compliance with privacy regulations. These are also opportunities to explain your personality and traits, showing off that you are inquisitive, hard-working, enthusiastic, etc.—qualities of an excellent summer intern.
Usually, your interviewer will have a set list of questions. However, some allow the conversation to flow, and others may leave a seemingly inordinate amount of time for you to ask questions. Thus, you should prepare questions in anticipation of the big day.
Prepare general questions, like: “What does a day at work look like for you?” “What kind of responsibilities/training/mentorship will I receive as an intern?” and “What is the workplace culture and environment like?” In addition, craft questions specific to your interviewer and his or her work. You should be able to come up with these questions based on your research, and your interviewer may talk about some current projects during your conversation. Some good examples are, “What do you find interesting about working on….?” “How would you compare your current work with your position at ….?”
Questions present yet another opportunity to show your qualities as a candidate. Do not be afraid to preface your questions with explaining why you are curious about a topic or why it is important to you. This shows a sense of self-reflectiveness that employers appreciate – they want their interns to care about what they do.
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