Let me begin this article with an anecdote of how an internship interview should NOT be like.
Interviewer: “So… what do you expect this internship to be like?”
Anonymous: “Uhm… like Suits?”
The look on the interviewer’s face was inexplicable. He was shocked, not to mention appalled, by anonymous’ flimsy response. He then lengthily discussed that an internship experience is nothing like the blatant exchanges and unforgettable one-liners that we see on TV. Nor is the experience like that of Mike Ross’ who gets to solve the big case on the first day at work.
Let me give you an honest, un-sugarcoated narrative on my summer apprenticeship experience.
I was fortunate enough to have interned in two firms that I consider to be the best in the country. My first firm was an old firm with around fifty lawyers handling different cases most of which are for well known public figures. On the other hand, my second firm was a relatively new firm composed of around twenty lawyers whose client list comprise mostly of big corporations.
On my first day of internship, I was already introduced to the lawyers, some of which I only see on TV giving interviews. In the succeeding days, I had a glimpse of the world I would be facing after law school. It is definitely not all glamorous, and most of it involves sitting behind your computer for hours trying to look for jurisprudence that could support your argument.
On some days, I would get asked by a lawyer to tag along in a client meeting. Client meetings are my favorite. Not only do you get to eat in fancy restaurants for free, but you also get to witness greatness in action through the lawyers whenever they explain the merits of the case to the client and present to them the pros and cons of the action they plan to take. I also got the chance to review contracts and apply what I learned from ObliCon in analyzing different contract stipulations. I also drafted a Motion to Expunge, which I have never encountered prior to my assignment. I had to think on my toes, research to my wit’s end and consult my supervisor countless times. Although it may seem like an easy task for practicing lawyers, drafting a Motion to Expunge was an uphill climb given that I have never drafted a motion in my life. However, nothing beats the satisfaction of a lawyer recognizing your work as helpful to the case.
In apprenticeship, not only do your patience and perseverance get tested but you also learn to be street smart. Most of the time, the lawyers will give you a situation that you have to find solutions for, taking the client’s position into account. There will be days that you will be lucky to find the answer in Lex Libris, but on bad days, you may have to call or visit various government offices just to get the information you need. I had to call and visit the Register of Deeds and the local BIR office several times. While this was not on the top of my favorite apprenticeship moments list, it was still memorable because of all the stress encountered to finish the task and the feeling of fulfilment that came after.
One of my favorite internship moments is when one of our supervising attorneys took us on a field trip to the Supreme Court. At that time, Bar passers were signing the roll; hence, we also got a feel of what it feels like to finally get that A-T-T-Y and sign the roll of attorneys after months of toil and hard work. We got to see the place where en banc sessions were held as well as the conference room where the justices convene for their internal discussions. The highlight of our field trip was our courtesy call to Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Arturo Brion. For a law student, whose closest encounter with them is through their ponencias, it was definitely an awe-inspiring moment similar to when fans meet their idols in person. The anecdotes and advice from both justices were definitely something that I would always keep in mind.
Apart from all the work and official business, internship would also give you a chance to interact with your other batchmates from different sections as well as other law students from different schools. I am proud to say that I have built lasting friendships with my co-interns throughout our entire stint. Indeed, fear and stress bond people. As interns, we also got to interact with the lawyers from our firm through lunches and even out of town trips. I was lucky enough that the lawyers from my two firms were very accommodating, generous, and down to earth. Not only did they give me valuable tips for the Bar but also shared with me their experiences in practice.
Cliché as it may sound — my apprenticeship experience was definitely a summer to remember. Not only did I get to meet inspiring people and experience the law in motion, it definitely motivated me to work harder and continue striving so that one day I may also be part of an illustrious group of individuals.
Here are some tips to land a spot in the office of your dreams and survive your legal apprenticeship experience:
- Nothing beats good grades and an excellent résumé. — while they say that grades are not everything, firms would still look at your grades in law school as a basis for your acceptance. An excellent résumé also helps the firm acquaint themselves with your strengths and weaknesses. It is important for you to show them how you are a good fit for the firm. I suggest keeping the firm’s mission vision in mind when crafting your résumé. However, do not fret if you think your grades are not good enough. You are an Atenean. The fact that you have survived two grueling years in the Ateneo Law School is already indicative of your hard work and perseverance.
- Do not let your first rejection bring you down. — Much like in love, everyone has experienced their own internship heartbreak. Chances are, the firm or the government office that wish to intern in will only select a handful of applicants. If you are not part of the lucky group, do not be disheartened. There will be other firms for you that will suit your needs and personality better.
- Make a lasting impression on your interview. — Research about your interviewer beforehand. He/she will definitely be asking you basic interview questions and proceed based on your answers. It’s better to be prepared with answers to generic interview questions so that you are more confident and coherent.
- Listen carefully. — Most of the time, the lawyers will only dictate to you the facts of the case and ask for an opinion regarding that; hence, it is important to take note of all the details to make sure you get everything correct. Always bring a pen and notebook with you.
- Learn from your bosses. — Be observant. They are experts in the field, so you would definitely learn a lot, from the way they relate to clients to the way they analyze cases.
- Lastly, enjoy! — Internship allows you to experience what it’s like to be a lawyer minus the stress of actually being one; so, enjoy it while it lasts. 240 hours is just a short amount of time to take in all the learnings and experiences so enjoy the ride!