What Are the Best Internships for Law Students at NGOs?
Law students have it rough. Whilst other students can look forward to long summers spent with friends, traveling, or resting to recover from exams, law students are advised to find work experience during their holidays. Summers mean internships for law students, but that doesn’t have to mean there’s no travel allowed too!
The internship itself will likely be quite exciting, however working out how to find a law internship is undeniably a slog. Applications are intimidating, interviews even more so, and then there are just so many options to think over: different disciplines, roles, and kinds of internship. Well, I’m afraid we’re about to give you another option to consider: nonprofit legal internships – abroad!
Here at Roots Interns, we offer all kinds of valuable law internships with NGOs across Africa and we believe all the best law internships for undergraduates are in the nonprofit sector. They give all the professional experience of any other internships, only they also offer the chance to travel and contribute to a meaningful cause.
Best NGO Internships for Law Students
In this blog you’ll find our best pointers on discerning what are the best internships for law students and how to find internships at nonprofits. To give you an idea of some of the opportunities out there, we’ll start with some of our best ngo internships for law students:
This is an ideal law ngo internship for students with and interest in women’s rights and empowerment
You’ll join the Women’s Legal Centre, a female-led nonprofit working to highlight the discrimination faced by many women in South Africa and improve the legal support available to them. They do this through litigation of cases for marginalized women, research projects, training programs, and advocacy campaigns.
As a Roots intern, you’ll help teams of legal practitioners prepare cases for litigation, develop educational programs on law for women, and engage with stakeholders. You’ll also have the option to get involved with communications for the organization and produce social media content or copy for blogs and newsletters.
Join Kwanele, an incredible nonprofit doing important work for women across South Africa with their innovative app. Kwanele is developing an app that can be used to report and prosecute gender-based violence and crimes, and create support groups and communities for victims in the Cape Town area.
This is one of our best internships for law students looking for research experience. One of the tasks you’ll work on will be gathering information for legal information packs for victims of abuse. You’ll also get more hands-on experience as you assist with offering legal support to victims of gender-based violence and marginalized women.
In this law internship you can use your experience and expertise as a law student to offer legal advice and practical assistance to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
You’ll intern with the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, a longstanding non-government organization dedicated to alleviating poverty in the Western Cape while fostering cultural integration for migrants and people on the move. The center offers a range of services from paralegal advice on a walk-in basis, English language courses, employability training, and assistance for migrants accessing welfare.
Your work as an intern will focus predominantly on researching legislation for diasporic communities and helping people on the move with the asylum application process. You’ll also play a role in documenting and following up on cases of violence or xenophobia against diasporic community members and other minor projects.
5 Tips for Finding Law Internships
1. Determine your interests and goals
Internships for law students can provide such a valuable leg up into the working world, as long as you know what you’re looking for.
There are a wide array of legal professions, specializations and so many internships to pick from. Moreover, if you’re considering ngo internships for law students there are a huge variety of causes you can contribute to. So, just narrowing down choices will be a task in itself.
To do this we recommend setting yourself short-term and long-term goals for your internship, and career. Know what you want to get from your legal internship and what career goal you want to build towards. Then ask yourself: what are the best internships for law students with my ambitions and goals? This will help separate the wheat from the chaff as you start to research.
2. Consider smaller companies
Big corporate internships may come with more recognizable names to put on your CV, but this does come at a cost.
Firstly, applying to these bigger, better known internships for law students, you’ll be going up against a lot more competition. This could mean struggling to secure placement. Moreover, interning with larger corporations might mean you take on more rudimentary ‘grunt’ work.
Interning with smaller firms or even something grassroots is the antidote to both these ills. Not only will you have an easier time securing placement, you’ll get to play a bigger part of the team you join. One thing you’ll find nonprofit internships good for is you’ll have a lot more possibility for vertical movement and the chance to take on bigger, more exciting projects.
3. Send speculative applications to companies
When working out how to find law internships, the best place to start is with speculative applications. Perhaps a ‘speculative application’ sounds too grand? Then reach out over socials and ask a question.
Law firms and nonprofits alike are eager to run internships for law students with initiative, ambition, and drive. Reaching out unprompted is a great way to communicate these traits, and might convince them you can make an impact working with them.
This also helps to begin building a professional network. Even if you don’t get an internship from your correspondence, you might get some useful advice or a contact for later in your career.
Fair warning, be prepared to get ignored and rejected a lot. This is to be expected, don’t take it personally. Don’t be afraid to be persistent either though. Sometimes emails are missed or forgotten about, and it’s up to you to make sure yours gets noticed. Always follow up!
4. Research the organization you apply to
This is by far and away the best advice you will get for interview preparation. Nothing will impress more than an intern who has done research about the work an organization does. This will also help you to understand where you will fit in the organization and so can inform the sort of questions you want to ask during the interview.
If you really want to go the extra mile, try and think of the value you can bring to the organization as a law intern. It doesn’t have to be huge. It could be a new project; it could also be a social event for employees. It is also possible your idea will get shot down, but that’s okay. The point is to show you’ve thought about what you can bring to the table.
5. Find an internship you’ll enjoy
You’ve worked hard all year, you deserve some fun. Yes, you should look for the best law internships for your career, but you can find ones you’ll enjoy too. Obviously we recommend non profit legal internships abroad for maximum experience and enjoyment!
NGO internships for law students provide professional development, and so much more. One of the great benefits of an ngo internship for law students abroad is the opportunity to travel, experience different cultures, and meet new people. Let’s not forget either, your work will allow you the fulfillment of playing a role in a community and making a difference in people’s lives.
Preparing for Law Internships
Read through the application thoroughly. Don’t fall at the first hurdle. Make sure you provide all the materials and information they request. Nothing will make an organization discount you quicker than an incomplete application.
Next tip, write a personalized cover letter for each firm you contact. Certain sections of every cover letter may remain the same but you should try to mention a specific interest in the company you’re writing to. Also, bear in mind that things like a cover letter and to an extent your CV aren’t just correspondence with a firm, but an example of your writing ability too. Make sure you proofread, edit out any typos, and write in an appropriate register.
Law Internship Interviews
Congratulations if you’ve been invited to an interview! But, the work’s not done yet. The interview process applying to internships for law students can be pretty daunting. The best way to combat this is to prepare, prepare, prepare.
Look up common interview questions and practice answers. Follow our earlier advice and research the organization inside and out. Also, prepare a few talking points around your own CV; perhaps the story behind a statistic you’ve included, or how a certain college course applies to the legal internship. It’s also good to have some questions of your own to ask the organization. Remember, this internship has got to be a good fit for you as well as the organization.
Finally, on the day of the interview, dress the part, turn up on time, but most of all, don’t be too nervous. This advice is easier given than followed, but the ability to practice clear communication and professionalism in high-pressure situations is crucial for the best law internships. Your interviewers will be looking out for it.
Mindset & Expectations
The best advice you’ll hear for any internship is to keep a positive attitude. Practicing resilience and composure will serve you well in whatever career path.
Things won’t always go your way during a legal internship — this is especially true for nonprofit legal internships abroad. Keep a calm head and be a problem-solver. This will impress your supervisors during the internship, but more importantly develop a healthy mindset to maintain throughout your work life.
The best way to do this, counter-intuitively, is to prepare yourself beforehand and manage expectations. In the days leading up to your internship, make sure you’re ready for the challenges ahead, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to perform either. Remember, an intern is primarily there to learn from their experience.
What Makes NGO Internships the Right Choice for Law Students
So, what are the best internships for law students? By now, you know our answer. What makes them the right choice? Well, the best argument that can be made for NGO internships for law students, isn’t what they can do for you but what you can do for them.
You’ll get professional development, work experience, a chance to travel, but more than that, you’ll be helping to further an important cause. Your law degree makes you such a valuable asset to so many nonprofits. There are incredible organizations doing vital work who are in dire need of people with your knowledge and skills.
Whether you’re advocating legal protection for marginalized women, researching an app to help report gender-based violence, or protecting the rights of refugees across africa, your law ngo internship could be helping to make the world a better place.
This blog was written by Tom Rusbridge. Photos taken by Anna Lusty.