The Value of Internships in Applying to Law School
During my first phone consultation with prospective law school admission consulting clients, often a parent or applicant will tell me they’ve had “great internships.” These invariably include things like UC-DC programs, interning with a Member of Congress (which really just means answering calls and giving tours of the Capitol building, right?), or perhaps something in the business world like being a marketing and promotions intern for a sports company (which is really just throwing t-shirts into a crowd).
So, where do internships come into play when building the strengths of a law school application?
1. Internships are better than working at the GAP. Unless, of course, you had to work at the GAP to pay your rent and tuition. Then, working at the GAP – if explained the right way in your application – shows a lot more about you than an internship would.
2. On the other hand, an internship in a law-related field shows you are not just applying to law school to avoid looking for a job.
3. It’s even better, however, to have had 2 or 3 internships in quasi-related fields. If you’ve had 2-3 internships in totally (seemingly) unrelated fields (public relations and finance, for example) then it can look like you lack direction and haven’t found your stride yet.
The same goes for job history – if you’ve been out of college for 2-3 years and have held 2-3 jobs that weren’t promotions within the same company or industry, then applying to law school can appear insincere – it can look like you’re floundering.
How do you counteract some of these assumptions?
First, don’t assume your experiences are more amazing than anyone else’s. Choose to emphasize your internship in a personal statement only if you learned something specific in a unique situation or were able to contribute meaningfully, or – in the alternative – if you learned something significant from having a negative experience at an internship. Think about what makes the experience interesting because simply having the internship on your resume probably isn’t impressive enough to a law school admission officer or law faculty member.
Second, stay away from LORs based on internships unless you did take the lead on a project or acted in some way above and beyond the standard intern. The letter should be written by the person who most closely supervised your work and can add the most substantive detail to the letter, and not necessarily the most famous person in the office.