Unlike older law school applicants, aspiring lawyers who are college students or recent graduates may not have a deep well of work experience to draw from in composing their applications.
They may fear that their resume seems a little bare, even if they have strong academic credentials. And they may struggle to come up with a good subject for a personal statement that doesn’t come across as lightweight or cliché.
Summer internships in college can help bridge those gaps.
It is not enough to simply list internships. After all, internship is such a broad term that it can seem almost meaningless without further explanation. Here are three ways to make your summer internships make an impact on your law school applications:
- Use your resume.
- Put internship experiences in your personal statement.
- Secure a recommendation letter.
Use Your Resume
Internships vary widely, from paid to unpaid, full time to part time, intensely hands-on to more perfunctory.
No one expects summer interns to prove themselves indispensable within a couple months of work. There can be more value in observing others and handling grunt work than in arrogantly getting ahead of yourself. That said, you don’t want readers of your resume to assume you spent your summer doing the bare minimum.
Since a law school resume can generally stretch to two pages, don’t hesitate to list all internships. Use bullet points for each entry to specifically describe your roles and responsibilities, emphasizing the development of your own skill set and the contributions you made to the organization.
Use specific, action-oriented language instead of a vague catchall term like “administrative tasks.” Did you answer phone calls or emails? Assist visitors? Proofread documents? Coordinate with office vendors? File documents? Could you provide any further details that show the value of the tasks you performed?
Put Internship Experiences in Your Personal Statement
Summer internships can be great subjects for a personal statement. Even if your internship wasn’t in a legal office, your work may have shown your ability to handle relevant responsibilities like time management, problem solving and serving clients.
If you choose to center your personal statement on a summer internship, avoid repeating what you list in your resume. Instead, focus on your personal experience, what you took away from the internship and why it was such a pivotal step on your journey to law school.
Beyond what you learned from the internship, this could include how the experience informed your career interests or goals.
For example, if you worked in an accounting office, even if you did not work directly on legal issues, you may have gained familiarity with financial statements and audit processes. Not only is that a useful skill for corporate or tax lawyers, it can show an ability to handle important and detail-oriented work.
Not every personal statement about an internship needs to make you sound like a superhero. There can be value in a more modest story about learning from a setback or frustrating experience, perhaps one that changed your perspective.
Secure a Recommendation Letter
If you focus your personal statement on an internship, it can be helpful to secure a supportive recommendation letter from a supervisor. Even if you write about something else, job supervisors can emphasize strengths that may not come across in the classroom.
If a supervisor agrees to write a letter, try to set aside time to discuss topics the letter might include, such as your goals and aspirations and why you want a legal career. However, avoid writing the letter yourself, even if your boss is busy.
While summer internships can be worth emphasizing in a law school application, they are not a requirement for law school. Admissions officers understand that many applicants may not have the time or resources to pursue internships. If internships don’t make sense for you, find ways to highlight similar experiences in your application, like jobs or volunteer activities.