Author: Rishima Rawat
Every law student wishes for an internship at her desired organisation. After all, internship is one of the most significant features of a law school education. It is not easy to secure an internship (unless you have contacts in the industry). The process may seem confusing initially. It requires careful research and persistence. In this article, we try to streamline the process for you. Here are the steps that you can follow when applying for a legal internship.
1. Shortlist organisations
Before applying to random firms and organisations, take a step back and think about where you would really like to intern. Research about your preferred firms/organisations, their practice areas and if they match your interest, then pursue an internship at that place. Location of the firm also matters. A firm in a bigger city will give you more exposure than that in a small one. Prepare a list of 6-7 firms where you would like to intern. It is better to send an internship application to select firms rather than mindlessly applying to every firm that you come across.
2. Prepare your CV
Your CV is your marketing tool. Ensure that it is up to date. This does not mean that you have to include everything that you have done till that point of time. If you are a senior student, you will have more information (hopefully) to put down in your CV. If you write everything, the document will exceed the standard 2-page count. No organisation spends more than a few minutes (or a few seconds) going through CVs. So make it as concise as possible. Include all your important internships, publications, moots, debates, extra-curricular activities or paper presentations. Format it neatly and see that it is not longer than 2 pages.
3. Draft a Cover Letter
A well-drafted cover letter is your chance to show the firm/organisation your interests, work ethic and sincerity. It is not a reiteration of your CV. Use it to demonstrate your skills and interests. Talk about what you are interested in and why you are applying to the firm. A cover letter is also your chance to tell the firm that you are aware of its practice area and have been following its activities (such as a recent deal or case that it was involved in). State how you will contribute to the firm. Express your interest in interning with them and close with a statement thanking them for their time.
An important point here is to not send the same cover letter to multiple organisations. People there are experienced enough to understand whether you have seriously put any thought into it or just drafted a standard cover letter for multiple firms. You are bound to make embarrassing mistakes. For example, while applying for internships, a friend drafted a cover letter, the first paragraph of which stated:
“I am a 3rd year law student from ABC university and would like to apply for an internship at your organisation, XYZ Law Offices in its New Delhi Office.”
He sent it to three firms. The problem was that he forgot to change the names of the firms. So a cover letter meant for XYZ firm also ended up in the mailbox of DEF firm with its office only in Mumbai and Bangalore. His habit of copy-pasting cover letters landed him in a soup. Needless to say, he did not hear from the firms.
4. Email the organisation
After you have prepared your CV and cover letter, email it to the firm. The address will be mentioned on the firm’s website. If there is no email-id provided, you can call the office and ask for the email address meant for internships. In case you have a senior working in the firm, you can also ask them for the email address to send your internship application to. Apart from the address, it is advisable to ask who the email should be addressed to. In most cases, it is the HR. But some firms do not have a dedicated HR team. The associates handle the internships. In any case, a direct salutation such as “Respected Mr. X/Ms. Y” will stand out instead of a plain “Respected Sir/Madam.” It also indicates that you have done some due diligence about the firm.
5. Follow up
This is an important but neglected part. Most students do not take it seriously. You have to follow up on your application. Call up the firm after a few days of sending your application if you do not hear from them. Some firms do reply via email. Most do not. In that case, it is your responsibility to call and ask them about the status of your application. Keep calling till you hear something definitive. But remember, to follow up does not mean to annoy the HR. Do not call them everyday. When you call for the first time and hear a standard “we will let you know” response, ask them when can you call again to inquire about your application status. A call once a week should suffice. Following up indicates your eagerness to intern with the organisation/firm. After a few calls, there is a chance that the HR will remember your name and your interest in the firm. Always be polite when inquiring and thank them for their time.
The steps mentioned above aim at helping you navigate the process of applying for internships. You can always reach out to seniors to help you with your CV or cover letter. Keep in mind the fine points mentioned above (not copy-pasting cover letters, not being annoying when following up) and you shall be fine. We hope this article relieves some of your stress regarding the internship process.