Due to the evolvement of the legal sector and legal practices, it is now very necessary for a student or a recent graduate to work in an institution or law firm , in order to gain supervised practical experience and knowledge to be officially added to the legal work force. The institution should preferably be a law firm,l. This is because the legal profession is a very practical one and in that, it requires experiential knowledge as opposed to mere theories taught in law faculties lecture halls. This is why most law firms in Nigeria and some other countries in the world place student internship experience as a yardstick for employment.
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A law student is expected to have interned at least twice while in school and as opposed to the popular opinion it does not matter at that level. It is never too early to start gaining experience in the legal profession.
One very crucial advantage of Internship is that, the information gathered through the internship experience goes a long way in assisting the law student to be abreast with matters concerning his or her strength and weaknesses , which is integral in carving a niche in the long run. In this write up ,I shall examine the prerequisites, basic qualities and characteristics which serve as a bench mark for a good law student intern which indeed are numerous. But for the purpose of this article, I would be streamlining the issue to four integral qualities you must possess to be a good law student intern.
A Good law student must be:
- PROMPT, SPEEDY AND TIMELY:
A law Student intern must be prompt to work ,when absorbed in a Law firm to intern. An integral quality of a legal practitioner is punctuality, a lawyer must be punctual to courts, meetings with clients and other activities surrounding the sphere of legal practice, so also should a law student intern be, as he or she is a lawyer in training. It is advisable as a legal intern to be at least thirty minutes early to wherever you are going to. It is also very important for you to know how to effectively manage your time. There are a lot of activities that surrounds the successful running of a law firm, a legal intern should know how to prioritize, perform the important activities and save time.A Good law student should also apply speed in assignments given to him or her , but should also be accurate in same .He or she should however never sacrifice accuracy for speed .
- KNOWLEDGEABLE, ANALYTICAL, LOGICAL, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SAVVY AND A GOOD DRESSENCE:
A good legal intern should have vast knowledge in various areas of life, you must have adequate knowledge of the law and procedure. The legal profession is fast evolving and technology is taking over, that is why a legal intern must be technology savvy and have good computer skills. You must also have good knowledge and command of the English language. It is important to have a knowledgeable dress sense, your ability to look decent and presentable at all times is very essential. A good legal intern must know how to dress professionally, walk professionally and talk professionally. It is also very important to have a good knowledge of the local environment. You should be very analytical and logical, a good problem solver and should also a creative mind . One great quality of a good intern is one who have a knack for research, because research is one of the major ways to increase one’s knowledge. Before applying to be an intern in a firm, a thorough research about the organization, its history, mission, culture, structure, location, dos and don’ts and any relevant recent events must be done. Then the information gathered is what would help you perform your role effectively within the organization. This kind of information is usually available online since most law firms have their websites online. But in cases where there is no website, this information can be gotten from a law student who had previously interned in the law firm.A good law student intern should also be a research fellow ,who will help lawyers with research with Law Reports both physically and electronically.
- COGNITIVELY AND EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT
It is not enough to be tech savvy and commercially aware. Law is one profession that deals with people and by implication one of the qualities a good legal intern is to have great people management ability, this is where emotional intelligence comes into play. A good law student intern must know how to communicate effectively to ensure that the conversation ends as desired. Practice is usually different from theory, there are hierarchies in practice.It is expected that you treat such individuals in higher hierarchy with humility and respect. An excellent interpersonal relationship with clients, senior partners and fellow interns is also of necessity . In doing so ,also ensure you exchange contacts along the way and keep in touch with the contacts to expand your network.When you are eventually called to Bar ,this will make very easy for you get a good job .Also.pay close association to your Law Students’ Association activities and if your Principal is active at the Bar , leverage on same to attend some conferences ,if even as an attendant or usher .A good legal intern must basically know how to manage his or her emotions appropriately in a way that it does not reduce his or her productivity , but rather increase same. A good Law Student Intern , must also be intelligent , brilliant, intuitive and articulate .He or she must be able to fathom the complex matrix that Law Practice represents .In this regard , he or she must be ready to read materials on this score , both physically and electronically to understand and apply same to the day to day activities of the law firm .
- READY TO LEARN
As a good legal intern, it is your duty to make your firm know that you are ready to work with them. You do that first by your ability to fit into the workspace environment and work in consonance with laid down rules and regulations. Make the most out of your internship, be dedicated, receptive to ideas, enthusiastic, motivated and focused at the task at hand . Cultivate the habit of asking questions when in doubt , especially in areas you need some elucidation . It goes a long way in sending the message of “readiness to learn” to your senior partners. Treat every task as important, pay deep attention to details; You might not get a thumbs up for doing something worthwhile , but you sure would be noticed for doing something the wrong way no matter how “little” or “irrelevant” it may seem. Rather than staying idle, think about what your senior partner(s) need to make their jobs easier, then do it.Go the extra mile ,it will take you an extra mile in life .
- FINISH WELL
It is suffices to say that a good lawyer starts by being a good law student intern. Due to the fact that the legal profession is neither rosy nor a child’s play, there are bound to be moments where you are stretched outside your comfort zone and beyond your limits. As a good law student intern, you should know how to manage your stress (bearing in mind that stress is a thing of the mind and is part of life) , so that it does not overwhelm you , lead to poor health and corresponding poor work performance. One grave mistake most law student interns make is having a poor winding down process. The end of your student internship programme is as important as the beginning. As a good legal intern , it is important to know that as your internship programme comes to an end, you are to intimate your employer on all you have learnt during the course of the internship programme, appreciate the management of the firm, exchange contacts to increase your network base and if possible get a reference/recommendation/commendation letter or a testimonial from the firm.
To crown it all up, I am confident that if you leverage on the qualities discussed above, not only will you be a good law student intern but you will be the best law student intern in that firm of your dream. With focus and care , nothing can stop you from performing your work error-free and being the best in what you do.
Stay productive and you will stay relevant !
About the Author:
Flourish Robins’Ngo is a 300 Level Student of the Faculty of Law , University of Benin and an African Bar Association (AfBA) Law Student Intern .