Doing internships: Why, When and How?

Current LLB student Aaima Asad on how internships can help strengthen your professional skills and interpersonal relationships
Stepping out of her comfort zone: Aaima Asad
Internships allow you to strengthen your CV, create a network of professional relationships, test your knowledge and skills and achieve greater confidence in your abilities

During student life one has a very abstract idea of the future. The world is our oyster, our plans grand and expectations limitless. Reality is slightly less glamorous and tends to lead to disappointment due to this. However, the advantage of entering a field such as law is that due to the diversity within, it allows us to tap into our strengths and choose a path best suited to our unique abilities. Jobs within the field range from being a Barrister or Advocate to opting to become a legal analyst, a Paralegal or even an Account Development Executive, an Insolvency Practitioner or a Financial Consultant depending on our interests and capabilities.

In order to get exposure to the diversity within this field, as a student it is imperative to be proactive and – along with focusing on academic study – engage directly with the practical aspects of this field as well. The Qualifying Law Degree will provide you with the knowledge required by the legal professions but not the practical skills set. In order to obtain that, it is recommended that students do internships throughout the year if they can manage, or more preferably during the summer.

Aaima AsadUsually, upon graduation, students cannot dive into litigation or even adequately maintain a desk job, because practical matters such as where to buy stamp papers, or how to write a writ petition, or who to contact to get day-to-day supplies is not explained in a University. Such information can only be gathered through experience or guidance by someone in the legal profession. In order to be a step ahead of your peers, it is recommended that such techniques and information is gathered before you graduate, and a holistic picture is obtained during internships. Internships need not be very long. They may range from two weeks to three months or longer depending on where you have applied and how well you are performing. My own teaching institution, Pakistan College of Law, always instructed me to do an internship for at least one month during the summer.

"After joining a firm you might discover that one niche of your field is a better fit for you than another."

An internship is a temporary position with an emphasis on on-the-job training, rather than merely employment, and it can be paid or unpaid. Depending on what area of law interests you – criminal, corporate, tax law etcetera – it is advisable that you do an internship and decide whether that field is what you thought it was. After joining a firm for an internship you might discover that your planned career field was not what you thought it would be like. Or one niche of your field is a better fit for you than another. To allow yourself the opportunity to change your mind – and then change it again depending on your preferences, without significant adverse consequences – a student must make these choices during college life so that once you graduate you have a clear understanding of the path that you have chosen to pursue.

Internships have various advantages. They allow you to strengthen your CV and create a network of professional relationships; they allow you to test your knowledge and skills and achieve greater confidence in your abilities. Internships allow you to have an edge over your peers who are doing the same degree, and ultimately aiming for the same jobs. 

"Internships allow you to push yourself and step out of your comfort zone to view reality exactly how it is."

The process of applying for an internship is simple. You must first choose which area of law you are interested in exploring and what institute will best cater to those needs. Once you have narrowed down your options to two or three places you must then send an email with your CV attached, asking for an internship and explaining to them why you want to join them, and list your qualifications and skills in order to persuade them to accept your application. Your internship should help strengthen your professional skills and interpersonal relationships in professional settings.

Nonetheless, you must keep in mind that, at times during an internship, you will not get the attention you think you deserve, and the work may be monotonous, time consuming and without reward. However, you must not lose hope and you must keep your ultimate objective of exploring and learning from each experience in mind – through the good and, more importantly, the bad. Internships allow you to push yourself and step out of your comfort zone to view reality exactly how it is. For example, office politics are a part of any job environment and you must learn to deal with them. The earlier you do, the easier it becomes to manoeuvre yourself out of harsh situations and prevent other people from taking advantage of your naivety. 

"Wherever you decide to go for your internship, the experience should allow you to have a close working relationship with a seasoned professional and to increase your confidence by experiencing the industry first-hand."

As an alternative to working in the field that you wish to pursue, you may even indulge in internships that allow you to do social work for the betterment of society. Various institutions such as schools for mentally and physically handicapped children, orphanages and hospitals are always looking for volunteers to help reduce their burden. Participating in such internships allows you to empathize with those less privileged than you, gives you a greater perspective on life, and generally polishes your personality and grooms you into becoming a more responsible, mature adult. 

Wherever you decide to go for your internship, the experience should allow you to have a close working relationship with a seasoned professional and to increase your confidence by experiencing the industry first-hand with involvement in planning, implementing, and receiving evaluation of assigned tasks.

Finally, I would say that I have learnt a significant amount from interning in different law firms and non-governmental organisations. The overall experience has always led to me encouraging students to intern. My institution, Pakistan College of Law, has always supported my decision to work, particularly during the summer after completing my exams. Now that I am close to graduating I stand in a better position, knowing what I wish to focus on doing in the legal profession.