Voices from the Trenches – Internships

Occasionally, paralegals working in the field are invited to be guest writers for our series “Voices from the Trenches”** on topics of interest to paralegals.  The following is a post from a paralegal in the trenches on making the most of your paralegal internship:

In this lovely economy, many of us find ourselves working for less than minimum wage ($0.00 per hour, to be exact).  While the glamorous life of an intern does not always seem enviable, a well-prepared and thoughtful intern can develop more than just a disdain for paper cuts.  Here are a few tips I have developed during my time as an intern:

1.  Keep your eyes and ears wide open.
And leave your brain turned on.  I realize that filing is not the most exciting task but it is where most interns start.  Do not fall asleep while alphabetizing or fall into a daze staring at the pretty-colored folders.  Really examine the paperwork you are handling.  What does it say?  It is okay, you can read it (remember to keep it confidential).  What does it mean?  What type of document is it (a pleading? correspondence?)?  To whom is it addressed?  Why is it addressed to that person?  Where does it fit in to the whole procedure?  What might a response to this document look like?  Also, listen to the people around you.  If you hear the attorney mention something about an MSC to the paralegal, take note; find out what an MSC is and why the attorney might mention it.  Look, listen, ask questions, and take notes.

2.  Be (moderately) nosy.
Ask questions.  Ask anyone.  As an intern you are supposed to be learning about the legal field.  The people you work with know that you are there to learn.  They do not expect you to know everything.  In fact, many do not expect you to know anything.  So, go ahead, ask away!  You are working for free; the least they can do is give you an answer.  Do try to be a little perceptive.  It is probably not a great idea to ask the paralegal about the MSC while he is trying to finish the interrogatories that were due yesterday.

3.  Be greedy.
Even when it comes to seemingly-simple tasks, it never hurts to volunteer.  If a phone call needs to be made, jump in and ask your supervisor if you might make the call.  Not only will you feel more confident about making calls in the future but you will become more comfortable using legal jargon.  The ease with which you use legal vocabulary is likely to impress a future employer.   If someone needs a letter delivered to another department, jump to it.  You never know who you might meet.  Politely insist on participating in as many of the office activities as you can; they will only enhance your experience.

Most importantly, continuously reflect on your experience.  Remember to ask yourself what you know now that you did not know before and you will realize how much you are learning.  Do not undervalue an internship opportunity!

**If you have an experience as a paralegal that you would like to write about and submit for our series “Voices from the Trenches”, please send me an email at info@maryemullinattorneyatlaw.com.

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