Why Should I Get Work Experience?

You need it.

Frankly, nowadays, you need some sort of experience to enhance your chances of breaking into the legal profession. Whilst this may not be as strict in Nigeria as in foreign countries, we find that the legal job market in Nigeria is becoming increasingly competitive and academic excellence alone does not cut it anymore.

Also, generally, doing work experience shows employers that you have a certain amount of passion and interest in your chosen profession. It shows that you have invested in the field and are making an informed decision applying for a certain role.

You need it.

Here, it is not merely because it is a requirement for the job you are applying for. If you are unsure what path you want to take in your legal career, legal work experience is a good way to sample the career options out there and gain valuable insight. You can explore different jobs and sectors without making a commitment. We highly recommend that you complete at least one internship programme before applying for a full-time job.

You break in easily

Work experience gently introduces you to the 9-5 world (this is law, so read 9-9). You learn the dos and donts of the legal profession and even gain exposure to how an organization operates at the most basic level. It is the best way to get a real sense of your chosen practice area or even your chosen organization. You can speak to employees directly and ask more specific questions.

You could land a job.

Yes, you could impress your supervisors while interning, that they offer you a role within the organization. Read here for how to maximize your legal work experience.

You get to network

You get the opportunity to build up your contacts in the legal industry. This could lead to a future job or just connect you with people who are able to provide you with hands on career advice. Read here to understand the importance of networking.

You gain soft skills

Even if your work experience does not entirely focus on your particular career path, you can still use it to develop vital workplace skills. Skills such as presentation, communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills come to play in almost any job.

You learn about yourself

Work experience reveals things about you that your education alone cannot reveal. It can provide you with answers for popular interview questions such as do you work well in a team, who was the hardest colleague you had to work with, etc.

 

Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged and an Associate in the Corporate/Commercial law arm of a top-tier Nigerian law firm.

She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, compliance, etc.

She also seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers, and make better career decisions.

Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.

 

legallyengagedWhy Should I Get Work Experience?
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AskLE – Why am I not getting any internships?

Right from my 100 level, I have always liked working during my summer holidays. And over the years I have applied to a number of law firms in the country but only get replies from some and considered by few. I usually apply in January and February since it’s for summer period and it’s sad that even upon my early application I don’t get any response, because there was no measure used to sift people in order to make the selection. However, I am really interested and open to new ways of getting accepted by some of these law firms. What can I do?CI, 500 Level LLB student

Hello CI,

It’s a little difficult to prescribe specific solutions as we don’t know your exact circumstances.

However, we find that the most common reasons that students are not successful in their internship applications could be anyone of the following:

  • Nigerian law firms do not offer structured internship programmes as obtainable abroad – it’s still very much about who you know;
  • You are not persistent or proactive enough;
  • You do not follow up;
  • You do not apply early enough;
  • You are applying to intern in peak periods only i.e. summer;
  • You are applying for a lengthy period;
  • You are looking for glitz and glam so are only applying to the “top” law firms – if experience is really what you are after, there are so many places you can get this;
  • You are limiting yourself in terms of where you can get legal work experience – think outside the box, it doesn’t need to be a law firm; and/or
  • This is a very competitive profession and your application simply does not cut it.

We will be unpacking the issues listed above and their possible solutions in a series called “How to Get Nigerian Law Internships”, please stay tuned. For now, we hope the above makes things a little clearer.

Kind regards,

The Legally Engaged Team

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How And Where Can I Get Legal Work Experience

Extracurricular activities

If you are still in university or law school, extracurricular activities provide useful experience that will help you develop some of the skills you need to be a lawyer. Law students can participate in debate societies and moot competitions, thereby sharpening their oral advocacy skills.

Taking part in writing competitions, writing clinics and school-related newspapers, magazines and newsletters can also help you gain good writing experience.

You can (and should) even take part in non-law activities. This is a good way to stand out as a well rounded individual.

Volunteer

Many religious institutions, nongovernmental organizations, public interest organizations, etc. are desperate for volunteers. Some churches have prisons outreaches or a legal aid unit. These opportunities provide you with a lot of vital and hands on experience. You are usually given a lot of responsibility and get to deal with real situations.

Apply for an internship

You can apply for an internship at a law office or a financial institution, insurance company, government agency or any company for that matter. If you are looking to work in corporate law especially, it is an added advantage to intern in a non-law organization.

 

Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged and an Associate in the Corporate/Commercial law arm of a top-tier Nigerian law firm.

She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, compliance, etc.

She also seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers, and make better career decisions.

Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.

 

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Maximizing Your Internship/ Work Experience

 

  1. Communicate before hand

Communicate with the organization as much as possible before the day; asking questions will help ease the anxiety that may come with starting work at a new organization.

 

  1. Get an induction

If you are on a formal internship programme, you may be taken through an induction programme. Otherwise, ask the person assigned to supervise you to walk you through some of the things you need to know. This includes everything from where the toilets are to who is responsible for what. This is also a good time to let your supervisor know your expectations for the programme. This is vital since you do not want to end up running photocopies and printing letters.

 

  1. Have a clear plan of action

To be able to tell your supervisor your expectations of the internship, you need to have formulated those expectations. You can gain a lot of things from an internship; simply ask yourself what you think you can gain most from this one. Do thorough research on the firm and understand what its strengths are, and what it can do for you. This could be mentorship/networking opportunities, exposure to high profile transactions, etc.

 

  1. Build responsibility

Hit the ground running. Make sure you demonstrate from the onset that you are willing to learn and to work. You can make some good friends among your fellow interns, but remember that you are there firstly to learn and to work. Seek out tasks, if they haven’t already been assigned to you and build your supervisor’s confidence in you by meeting expectations on those tasks. Approach every task with initiative and enthusiasm but if you feel that your capability is not being maximized, feel free to politely raise this with your supervisor.

 

  1. Build relationships

Avoid the temptation to just bury your head in books in the library, especially if you are on externship from law school and preparing for your Bar Finals. Sometimes, standing out simply means being more sociable at the workplace. Have conversations with the lawyers and treat everyone you meet with respect and professionalism.

 

  1. Give/receive feedback

Again, you may need to engineer this yourself, but ensure that you have a session at the end of your internship programme where you can receive feedback from your supervisor on your performance during the duration of the internship. You should also seek to receive feedback in the course of the internship; at the completion of an assigned task for instance. Simply say something like “please let me know if my answers are what you were looking for” or “please let me know if there was anything I missed

Where you have constructive feedback to offer the firm, you should consider offering this. However, if the feedback is not positive, be very polite in your approach and make sure you have thought of possible solution(s) for the issue you have raised. Lawyers are after all supposed to be problem solvers not problem identifiers.

 

  1. Keep in touch

Invest in your relationship with your contacts after the internship. Do not bombard them with emails and calls, but add them on LinkedIn, be visible on (their) LinkedIn and send a message every now and then.

 

  1. Document what you have gained

Do not wait till it’s time to update your CV to take stock of what you have gained from your internship; do it while the experience is still fresh. As much as possible, keep track of tasks you work on as they come. This is especially important if you are on externship from the Nigerian Law School, as you would be required to fill your log book.

 

Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged and an Associate in the Corporate/Commercial law arm of a top-tier Nigerian law firm.

She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, compliance, etc.

She also seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers, and make better career decisions.

Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.

 

legallyengagedMaximizing Your Internship/ Work Experience
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How to Get Nigerian Law Internships; Part 2 – the Three Time Factors

In our last session, we discussed networking as a means for securing Nigerian law internships. Click here to read it.

Another important factor that you must account for when applying for internships at Nigerian law firms is the timing of your application. It is great to connect with lawyers, send a stellar application and do everything by the book, but there are many time factors you need to take into account to increase your chances of getting the internship you want.

1.        Timing of the application itself

Nigerian law firms offer majority of their internship slots during the summer months, i.e. between May and September. Most students intern during the summer months as it the time that foreign and most Nigerian universities are on the lengthiest holiday break of the year. It is also the period that the Nigerian Law School sends its students on a compulsory ‘externship’ programme at law firms across Nigeria. These months are peak period as far as Nigerian law internships go.

As a result, competition to get a slot on an internship program during one of these months is really fierce and places fill up really quickly. Therefore, it follows that to maximize your chances of taking up an internship during this period, you need to apply as early as possible.

As a general “rule” of thumb, it doesn’t hurt to begin applying for internships as early as January/February before the summer you would like to intern. In fact, an increasing amount of law students we have spoken to tell us that they send in applications (and secure slots) months in advance and before the summer rush begins.

Once you have identified the firms you would like to intern at, it is advisable to speak to an employee of the firm before sending in your application to get a feel of the application process. Law firms in Nigeria tend to accept internship applications on a rolling basis, so send your application emails as soon as practicable.

2.        Period of internship

As discussed above, the summer months are peak period when it comes to internships in Nigerian law firms. So, it might be a good idea to consider other periods of the year to undertake an internship. You could intern during the short breaks between semesters or when schools shut down due to strikes or other unforeseen circumstances.

If you are thinking of interning during the Christmas period, however, another factor to consider is that many law firms and Nigerian organizations in general begin to ‘wind down’ at the end of the year. This means that the work flow might not be as heavy as during the summer months. This in turn technically means that the opportunities to learn and work are not as many as during the summer months

Again on the other hand though, Nigerian courts go on vacation during the summer period, so even the summer period may not necessarily be ideal for a student looking for exposure to litigation and dispute resolution practice. This factor is unlikely to matter a lot if you are looking to intern at a commercial law firm.

Real hands on exposure to transactional or other work while on internship at a law firm is by and large still a myth, so on the whole, interning during non-summer periods is definitely worth considering. This is especially useful for foreign students who tend to get more time for the Christmas holiday than their Nigerian-trained colleagues.

3.        Length of the internship

When we advise students to take up internships at other periods of the year, one of the first things they mention is the fact that they do not have as much time over the Christmas holiday for instance, compared to summer.

Whilst we agree that the period of your internship will inevitably be shorter during Christmas, for instance, it is important to note that you do not need to take up an internship for 6 weeks to be able to gain from the scheme. Most of the benefits you gain from an internship (networking opportunities, resume enhancement, etc.) are not jeopardized by the fact that the internship is for two weeks and not a month. If you can secure four weeks, this is fine, but half bread is always better than none.

However, before you apply it would be helpful to inquire from the firm what their capacity is at the time, and together with mentor or other knowledgeable person, tailor your application accordingly.

Even during the longer vacations, if you are applying to notoriously competitive law firms, consider asking for a two-week or one-week slot. You can gain a lot from a two-week internship program if you are intentional from the onset. Also, since you’ve already got your foot in the door, it could serve as a stepping stone to return for a longer internship or to take up an internship somewhere else.

In conclusion, if for some reason, you have to take up internship opportunities during the summer, put in your application as early as possible, preferably months in advance, and consider shorter periods. You should also consider taking up internships during non-summer holiday breaks.

Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged and an Associate in the Corporate/Commercial law arm of a top-tier Nigerian law firm.

She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, compliance, etc.

She also seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers, and make better career decisions.

Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.

 

legallyengagedHow to Get Nigerian Law Internships; Part 2 – the Three Time Factors
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How to Get Nigerian Law Internships; Part 1 – Networking

The first thing you must understand whilst searching for internship opportunities is that Nigerian law firms do not offer structured internship programs.

In the UK, US and other foreign jurisdictions, internships are a big deal. The competition for them is extremely fierce, and the process is tough. There is a clearly laid out process to obtain an internship slot; you apply by a certain time, after fulfilling certain requirements, and a response from the law firm, positive or negative, is almost always assured.

The plain truth is that in Nigeria however, you will be hard pressed to find a Nigerian law firm that offers a recruitment process close to this for internship opportunities. In fact, we do not know of any such firm.

In Nigeria, students informally send in applications on a ‘rolling basis’ at different times of the year, and a very small minority of those students eventually get a slot on the programme, usually with no interview or follow up from the application.

Getting a slot on an internship program, especially with a top tier law firm, is still very much about who you know and how you can leverage your network. However, there are ways to work around the realities of the Nigerian legal sector, and to even use them to your advantage.

 Know someone

Our mission at Legally Engaged is to give pointblank careers information to aspiring lawyers, so we can boldly tell you that your chances of getting an internship at a law office you have absolutely no prior connection with are slim. Whether this should be the case is another discussion, but this is the current reality.

We have had a lot of students write to us to complain about this, and what they perceive to be “nepotism”, and what we have always advised is that insofar as you have found yourself in this profession and this situation, spend less time complaining and more time working around it. There are many students who do not have parents, aunties and uncles in the legal profession that still get good internship opportunities.

Networking in this regard is simply establishing contact and relationships with people in the Nigerian legal sector.

If you are not already networking and meeting legal professionals, you need to start now, but again, unlike jurisdictions abroad, the opportunities students have to network with lawyers in Nigeria are unfortunately extremely few. However, if you look hard enough, you are bound to find something. We have highlighted below some of the opportunities you can take advantage of.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great place to start; probably the best actually. We are startled to find law students with every social media account except LinkedIn.

Send invitations to lawyers working in the law offices you would like to intern in. Send them a polite and well-written message telling them about yourself, your career goals and your desire to intern with them. As you do this, bear in mind that some, if not most, will not respond to your messages. However, if you are persistent, you will get responses.

From their activity, you can also keep tabs on some of the professional events they are attending or coordinating, and attend these events as far as possible.

Events

Whilst there aren’t many events in the Nigerian legal space that grant students the opportunities to network with lawyers, students can take advantage of the existing events.

Having a mentor can help tremendously in this regard as your mentor can give you some insight as regards events you can attend. For instance, once a year circa March – April, there is a Lawyers League. It is a football tournament that about 20 top tier law firms participate in. Every Sunday, employees of these law firms come out en masse in support of their colleagues who are playing in the tournament. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet practising lawyers in a relaxed environment, but an opportunity that you may never be aware of without an insider. In the legal community, keep your ear on the ground.

Also attend careers events organized by your university or alumni associations and actively seek out lawyers to speak to.

Legally Engaged Events

Legally Engaged will also be hosting events that will give students and young lawyers the opportunity to meet and interact with senior lawyers. Stay tuned to our various social media accounts to be the first to know.

Community

Chances are that, no matter your background or pedigree, you have a vastly untapped network of lawyers and legal professionals around you. Get more involved in your religious, academic, social and even family gatherings, and you are bound to establish relationships, or at least find someone that knows someone that knows someone. There are no rewards for shyness; you have to get out there and be proactive!

Using the network

Now that you have established the relationship, you need to know how to leverage it.

As mentioned above, you can send messages to LinkedIn (and other) connections expressing your interest to intern in their organization. However, note that your presentation must be engaging if you do not want your message to be deleted without being read. Bear in mind the following.

  1. With LinkedIn, we would suggest establishing some sort of connection with the recipient you are sending a message to. Try as much as possible to make your message sound real and engaging, and not like something that was copied and pasted to 17 lawyers. So for instance, look for people who attended your university or even your church. You could also refer to recent activity on their profile e.g. your comments on an article they published. You are more likely to get a response when the recipient feels some sort of connection with you.

 

  1. Do not see your connection as an opportunity to be lazy. We recently received an email from a law student with a CV attached, and the heading “XYZ said I should send my CV”. The e-mail contained absolutely nothing else; no introduction and nothing about what he wanted us to do for him. The only reason the sender received a response from us is because as a career center, we chose to provide feedback to assist in future endeavours. With law firms however, you most likely will not get that luxury and your e-mail/ application will be deleted. Later in this series, we will be discussing dos and donts when sending out internship applications, but in the meantime, read our articles on writing a CV and cover letter.

 

  1. Don’t be an annoyance. Whilst we support the idea of students reaching out to lawyers, we need to let you know that sometimes there is a thin line between seeking out relationships and rubbing people off the wrong way. Be polite and be mindful of the response or body language of the recipient..

In conclusion, getting an internship at a Nigerian law firm is tough but there are many students who do not have parents, aunties and uncles in law that still get good internship opportunities.

Stay tuned for other parts of the series where we discuss persistence and follow up, strength of application, timing of application, and alternatives to law firm internships.

 

Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged and an Associate in the Corporate/Commercial law arm of a top-tier Nigerian law firm.

She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, compliance, etc.

She also seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers, and make better career decisions.

Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.

 

 

 

 

legallyengagedHow to Get Nigerian Law Internships; Part 1 – Networking
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Selecting A Law Office in the Early Stages of Your Career; Part 2 – Factors to Consider

 Editor’s note: on Saturday 14th October 2017, Legally Engaged will be launching a new webinar series Career Conversations with Legally Engaged.

We will be speaking with Desmond Ogba, Partner at Templars, Odunola Onadipe, Lead Administrator at Detail Commercial Solicitors and Abimbola Omotosho, an HR Professional and former Head of HR at Aluko & Oyebode, on Facebook and Instagram Live.

The theme of this episode is NYSC & Entry Level Applications, and we will be taking questions from our readers beforehand. Please send all questions to info@legallyengaged.com.ng with the subject Career Conversations with Legally Engaged.

In the last part of this series, we noted that we would be discussing some of the factors we believe all new wigs should consider before taking up employment in a law office. We also discussed how these factors might be weighted by different individuals.

In this part, we will be discussing some of these factors namely,

1.        What type of law do you want to practice?

Some law students and young lawyers may feel that this is the most important factor to consider, but we would be reluctant to agree.

At the beginning of your career, you should keep an open mind as regards area of practice. It is difficult to know what a practice area is really like until you actually try it out. For starters, you could read our interviews with lawyers in various practice areas here.

We would advise young lawyers to work with law offices or organisations that would afford them the opportunity to work on matters and transactions cutting across various areas of legal practice. We strongly recommend starting out your career with a firm that offers a department rotation system and not one that assigns NYSC associates to one or two practice area(s).

This is because having diverse experience will make you a well-rounded lawyer no matter what area you practice in. Also, it is difficult to know for sure what you’re going to want to do 5 or 10 years from now, so it is important to have more options rather than fewer.

2.        Where do you want to work?

Your location can greatly affect the type of firms you can apply to and plays a key role in the quality of training and experience you receive during your NYSC year. Nigeria is home to a large number of law firms and organisations with activities in different practice areas. Regardless of your location, there is a potential legal job for you.

Law students and graduates are more attracted to jobs in a large metropolitan city like Lagos or Abuja mostly based on the prospects of a higher income. Whilst we note that you may have limited flexibility on your location during your NYSC year, you are free to select your location of your first post-NYSC job according to your preferences.

In order to manage disappointments from the NYSC location assignment process, or if you have a situation that would not allow you move to another state, we would also advise assessing the opportunities available in other states in order to ensure that you get utmost value from your NYSC experience. For example, if you are assigned to smaller cities or towns in Nigeria, you may want to consider public interest roles in the Ministry of Justice or the legal aid council or roles as an assistant to a judicial officer.

3.        Retention & promotion rates

Another important factor in selecting a law firm is the possibility of retention after your NYSC year. You would ordinarily want to (have the option to) continue your career at the law firm where you undertook the NYSC program.

One easy way to assess retention rates is to check the number of NYSC associates recruited by a firm in a given year and the number of associates who were offered permanent associate position after the NYSC year.

Another important factor to consider is the short and long-term prospects for promotion and potential salary increases. Is promotion merit-based or discretionary?

If the firm is a partnership, it is also important to understand the partnership process and structure in order to assess the possibility of being a partner in the future, if this is your ambition.

4.        Reputation

You would find that when you introduce yourself to people, one of the first things you say after your name is what you do and where you work or school. This means people will identify you with your law office and vice versa.

Some students start their law firm research by gauging the relative “prestige” of law firms and then aiming to work at the most “prestigious” firm they can find. The problem with that approach is that as with beauty, prestige is in the eye of the beholder. Simply because a firm ranks #1 on Chambers & Partners, IFLR 1000 and Legal 500 list does not necessarily make it a better place for YOU to work.

You also need to remember that majority of the firms on these lists largely practice only commercial law or dispute resolution in so far as it comes up in commercial matters. We have established that you do not need to limit yourself to such practice areas in your early years. Also, note that bigger isn’t always better; smaller firms or legal departments may offer more flexible working hours, closer client contact and greater hands-on experience.

Consider the overall reputation of the firms you would like to work with. Are they known to be unnecessarily troublesome on a matter? Do they treat their employees poorly (this one is extremely key and would be discussed in greater detail in the next part of this series)? Is the lead partner or key manager a well-known womanizer? Does the firm have a reputation for cutting corners and other sharp practices?

The environment and practices you are exposed to at the start of your career would most likely form your outlook and behaviour. For instance, many lawyers who were treated harshly or unfairly in their early years end up treating others harshly and unfairly when they assume a position of responsibility.

In the same vein, a firm’s reputation could have a good impact on your career. There are some firms that are recognised as leading experts at what they do. Working with firms like these would open doors for you in almost every part of Nigeria and maybe even internationally.

5.        Remuneration

A lot of young lawyers are advised not to “chase money” in the early stages of their careers. We understand, and to an extent agree with the spirit behind the admonition; gaining good experience in a practice area during your early years is invaluable.

However, we need to also inform you that employers who say things like this may also be looking to take advantage of new wigs.

Benefits and perks should play a part in your decision-making process when considering where to apply, but they should by no means be the most important factor.

6.        Career prospects and transition opportunities

One other important factor in selecting a law firm is the opportunities that position will afford you if you decide to move on to another role. Perhaps you want to transition to a different type of law firm, a public sector position, or legal academia after a few years.

It is wrong to assume that after a role with a large, well-known law firm, smaller law firms and organizations would be eager to hire you. What will be most important to any organization is the type and quality of work you’ve been involved in. If you know you eventually want to work in a specific area, take advantage of every opportunity your future firm offers to learn about that field – take up “pro bono” projects, attend conferences, participate in training relating to the subject.

If you are interested in going into academia, you should note that there are many factors that will be more important to your candidacy than the type of law firm where you work after completing law school. These factors include publications, additional advanced degrees, and recommendations.

 

In the next part of this series, we will be discussing what we consider to be the two most important factors for new wigs to consider when selecting a law office in the early stages of their career.

 

Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged and an Associate in the Corporate/Commercial law arm of a top-tier Nigerian law firm.

She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, and compliance.

She seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers and make better career decisions. Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.

Gabriella Ndu is a corporate, energy and projects lawyer with experience advising on traditional and renewable energy projects, facility management services, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, project finance and corporate transactions across Africa, Middle East, GCC, and South Asia. She is a law graduate of the University of Nigeria and was called to the bar in 2014. 

She is currently a candidate of the Career Development Program at Middle East, South Asia & Turkey office of ENGIE, a CAC40 company with her first role in the legal team.

 

legallyengagedSelecting A Law Office in the Early Stages of Your Career; Part 2 – Factors to Consider
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An Intern’s Guide to having a Great Internship Experience

I started interning during my first year at the university and initially saw it as a way to avoid boredom, but I have now come to find that internships are a great opportunity to further one’s career.

If you have not secured an internship placement yet, I recommend you read “How to Get Nigerian Law Internships Parts I & II” before reading this. If your internship application has been successful, congratulations on securing that internship! Whether it was a rigorous process or you were just lucky, a small window has been opened to you to show your worth and prove that doors should also be flung open. Now that you have secured this internship, you should –

  1. Make a good impression

You are most likely going to be walking through those office doors for the first time, seeing completely new faces or maybe a few familiar faces you have seen online.

First impression matters, so be at your best. Dress smart, be courteous and polite to everyone you meet, whether he’s the founding partner or an office assistant. Show enthusiasm and a willing attitude to work and provide solutions at your level. Exhibit a positive mindset even in the face of challenges.

Also, as far as possible, take part in office events. The firm you are interning at is probably involved in certain corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. As far as you can, be a part of these initiatives.

  1. Be ready to learn

In your new office, know that there’s always something to learn. It may be something that will help you in your next level at school or a practical aspect of a theoretical subject you have been taught. In the long run, whatever you learn in those few weeks or months will help you in your career. Just be constantly ready and willing to learn. The little tips you pick up during office meetings, advice from senior colleagues or even random conversation from fellow interns will help in making you a better person, even outside the office.

  1. It is not all about the money

Yes, we all like paid internships, but don’t let money be your driving force. No one wants to work without getting at least a stipend at the end of their internship, not even I. But the truth is you will not always get a paid internship even when you think you deserve it.

So rather than clogging your mind with reasons why you should be paid and allowing that to reflect in your attitude towards the internship, think of how your experience will bring you much more than that stipend you could have received.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of unpaid internships and I ended up thinking about transportation and feeding and if it was really worth it. But after weighing the pros and cons, I decided that the experience was still worthwhile. Whatever form of internship offer you are given – paid or unpaid- know that once you accept the offer, you still have a duty to give the internship your best.

  1. Make friends

Good friendships can be formed during internships. Do not come with an “I have it all, know it all” aura, because you may be humbled by the people you will meet.

This is a good opportunity to truly build your people skills by being cordial and professional with those you work with. Be friendly, at the same time be respectful and know your limits. Learn to be a great team player and not a lone ranger. Teamwork is crucial to the success of every organization so you increase your value as a potential employee if you are a team player.

The friends you meet on an internship programme can help in getting you more internship opportunities, funding programs or simply by expanding your professional network. Don’t take them for granted.

  1. Associate with the lawyers

Without a doubt, the lawyers are watching you from the moment you are introduced to them. Lawyers are the best people to work with because they have access to a lot of information.

Be in their good books by working with them and doing your best always. When you are in doubt or confused about the work given to you, feel free to speak to them and let them put you through – be teachable. Share your ideas with them, voice your perspective on existing legal issues, and engage them in intellectual conversations. Connect with them on LinkedIn and discover their interests.

Your future mentors and referees may be among the lawyers you work with as an intern. Do not undermine anyone’s experience or position; anyone can make an impact on your career.

Last year, while interning at a top-tier law firm, I made a presentation on a topic I intended writing my undergraduate thesis on. I only had a few ideas but went ahead with the presentation. After my presentation, I got good feedback from the lawyers. They gave me different suggestions and tips on how to develop the topic for my thesis. Needless to say, my thesis was a huge success.

  1. It is more than just an internship

Do not view an internship merely as an activity you do during the holiday or just to satisfy academic criteria for graduation. Take your work seriously,

This means not waiting for the lawyers to come looking for you when you know you are not busy. Approach the lawyers and find out from them what you can help them with.

Also, maintain a healthy cordial relationship with those you work with and stay out of trouble. Follow the rules of the firm and uphold good ethics. Realise that you can actually get a job as a result of your performance on that internship. There are endless possibilities when you take your internship seriously.

 

Go on, head held high, attitude and character in check and have a fabulous internship experience.

 

Chiemela Iwegbulem is a Law Graduate of Afe Babalola University. She has interned with KPMG Nigeria and several law firms including top-tier law firms. She is interested in Tax, Mergers & Acquisitions and Capital Markets. 

She is the outgoing Director of Moot & Mock Trials and has served in different capacities in the Executive body of her Law College. Chiemela is a Student Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK and the Nigerian Society of International Law.

Chiemela has a passion for law and is committed to helping others succeed in the law profession. You can reach out to her on LinkedIn here.

legallyengagedAn Intern’s Guide to having a Great Internship Experience
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