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Working in a law office as a paralegal where support and assistance are provided to attorneys may be considered a high-stress environment for some. There are deadlines to meet and reports to write, and mistakes are not usually tolerated very well. Paralegal internships are one way to enter an industry early so that relationships begin and trust is formed. The best possible paralegal internships could reside at law firms that practice civil law or criminal law, depending on your preference. Smaller law firms may allow you to get more hands-on experience, while much of your time might be spent filing documents at a larger firm.
Paralegal internships can prepare you for a career in the legal profession before, during, or after law school. Some individuals practice as a paralegal for an entire career and have no interest in becoming an attorney. Part-time and full-time internships may be offered. To be considered, students should proactively mail resumes and offer references in addition to highlighting work and school achievements in letters to partners and office managers at law firms.
Students are likely to get the most industry experience out of paralegal internships that are similar to apprenticeships, and these kind do exist. It may be necessary to pursue an internship at a smaller law firm in order to dive in, but that will not always be the case. The benefits of being included in team meetings, research, and any courtroom activity are learning skills and techniques that will better qualify you for employment. Paralegal internships that are limited in large part to filing documents may be beneficial for making industry connections and interacting with supervisors and attorneys.
The best paralegal internships may be limited only by the type of law that students prefer to be around. Criminal law, for instance, is about crime and punishment. Civil law deals with noncriminal litigation surrounding white-collar crimes, divorce, and the like. Law firms may specialize in one aspect of the law, such as personal injury or bankruptcy. The best paralegal internships are those that will instruct students in the types of law that these interns might practice one day.
Paralegals are in many ways secondhand professionals to attorneys. Although paralegals do not provide legal advice, the support of this group is paramount to attorneys preparing for courtroom trials or meetings with clients and partners. At the end of an internship, a student should have a clear grip on the professional environment of a law firm, courtroom, and the duties performed by a paralegal professional. The legal departments at colleges and universities should provide some point of reference on where past alumni performed paralegal internships that led to employment.
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