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Law students; Internships could broaden legal learning Photocredit facebook.com/rotimi.m.kodaolu

The long holidays are here again! It’s another long period off academics and school work. What are you gonna do with it? Hustle for extra cash to buy new clothes and phones to wow your mates in school after resumption? Hmmm! Well those from the not so wealthy home also hustle for extra cash to keep body and soul together and buy their books. So it’s understandable!

However, you can do something else. Internship! Yea you heard right! There is a whole world of difference between what you are taught in school and what obtains in real life in legal practice. The only way you can see the practical application of what you are taught is by interning in a law office or law chambers!

You need to intern in a law firm to know that bail is not free! You also need to intern in a law firm to know that going to court is not all that a lawyer does. There are many things lawyers do but unfortunately, the curriculums in our universities are geared towards making us litigation robots.

The curriculum also focuses more on the substantive area of litigation. You need to see and feel the practical aspects. You will see how originating processes are filed and served. I recall that it was after I interned in a law office after my 3rd year, that I was able to file suits at the moot court in my faculty. I had been put through drafting court processes by the lawyers in the law office. To think that I achieved that feat in my 4th year makes me very proud.

Besides, nothing is as confidence and morale boosting as the act of drafting court processes, letters and agreements while you are still a student. The adrenaline rush and excitement motivates you on your return to school, to finish up and join the profession. I recall being given the task of taking down the minutes of a meeting with a client who had come to draft his will. My hands wobbled as I wrote down the instructions he dictated. He was a very wealthy man and reeled out a list of real properties, shares in companies and cash in different bank accounts. I recall being asked to type the said minutes of the meeting and the testator’s instructions on the office computer and not my laptop to ensure confidentiality.

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Though you might not be allowed to sign some documents or appear in court because you are not a lawyer yet, there are so many things you can do. You can conduct searches at the land registry. Participate in meetings with clients where of course, you will take the minutes. This is a chance to learn the art of taking minutes or develop your skill further in that area. You will learn how to draft legal letters. Lawyers write in a peculiar way. Short and straight to the point! Threats are made when necessary and concessions are made without accepting liability. All these you will be taught.

Well if you think you are the only person benefitting from the law firm you intern in, then think again. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Though the law firm will give you a lot, you shall give back by doing research tasks. Remember you are coming from the academia so the lawyers expect you to know more about the latest information on new legislations and other legal phenomenon. Where you don’t know, you will not be killed. If you knew it, you won’t be a student. So no worries!

Then you will also give back in non-legal areas. You will be surprised most lawyers have no time for social media and you will think they will scold you for chatting on social media? Lemme shock you! You may have to teach all the older lawyers how to open a Facebook or Twitter accounts and use them. I did that. In fact, I had to teach many how to use their sophisticated phones which had hitherto been used for making calls and receiving messages. You may teach them how to even take selfies!

These days, am too busy to know what is trending so I ask interns in my office to help out with information on trending apps, updates on various apps and for trending news. Lemme shock you further, some of these blog posts are edited by interns! I mean, we lawyers ought to have some benefits for tutoring learning colleagues or don’t you think so?

So get down and start drafting an application letter for internship with any law office near you or a legal organization. You will also need a CV drawn up. Get dressed in a good corporate wear and step into the legal world. It’s bigger than what you have been taught and what you think!

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“Will I be paid for internship?”

Hmmmm! Wonder why someone asked that! All the things I listed you will gain above cannot be quantified in monetary terms. However, some principals will give you some money to help with your transportation. Please note that they are not obliged to do that. Internship is not a job in the paying sense but a part of your academic experience, so don’t expect a salary or wage. You might be given stipends weekly or at the end of your internship. Lawyers in the firm could also give you tips for doing small jobs like writing letters and running errands (I always had a pocket full of tips in those days).

Law firms also give a letter of appreciation acknowledging your good conduct, skill and dedication. This could serve as part of your work experience when you hit the labour market. So go for it now. If you need any further information on internship, then drop your questions as comments and you shall get a response.

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Maduka Onwukeme is an Attorney, Creative Writer and Business Consultant. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook or on Linkedin

 

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