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My Internship Experience

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Olivia Leon

PHS '18, University of Alabama '22

College is a time for making friends, gaining independence, and finding yourself as an individual. Though it sounds, and is sometimes portrayed, like all fun and games, college is also a time for “adulting”. The next four years of your life will help you determine your place in the real world, and discover what it is you want to do “when you grow up” (which is sooner than you think!). 

When I first declared a major at The University of Alabama, I chose Criminal Justice. Though I didn’t know exactly what I had wanted to do yet, I figured that since I found my Forensics class in high school so interesting, CJ was a good place to start. I took my CJ 100 and core classes, and while I found all of the topics fascinating, nothing really stood out to me. It wasn’t until the second semester of my freshman year, after I took a Corrections class, when I realized that I might want to try out Law. I went to my advisor and put myself on the Pre-Law track, still unsure weather it was a good fit for me. The thought of being a pre-law student terrified me. I was in constant fear that I wasn’t smart enough, or cut-throat enough to be a lawyer. While I got good grades, I procrastinated terribly, did not have a strong drive to get work done, and definitely had a more gentle and quiet personality than the strong and outspoken lawyers you see on TV. I began to really question my decision, and wondered if I was just wasting my time. 

That summer I went back home to Parsippany, and within a month I was back down in Alabama. I decided that I needed to find a summer internship in the Law field to see if it was a good fit for me before I potentially wasted another entire semester on pre-law. After weeks of phone calls and mailing my resume, I was finally hired by a firm in Birmingham. I was extremely nervous at first, as I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Much to my surprise, internships are nothing like how they are portrayed on TV. I wasn’t doing coffee runs, or cleaning toilets, or following someone around with a clipboard as they barked orders. They threw me right into the real work, and by the end of the first week I was filing, doing client intakes, and typing documents all on my own. They even let me sit in on real court cases! After about a month of this, I knew I had made the right choice, and that pre-law was the track I wanted to go down. Once school picked up, I was able to meet with my college’s internship advisor, who helped me work out a schedule in which I’d be able to work at the law firm two times a week in exchange for class credits. I still work at that law firm, but am now a full-time paid Clerk. From having an internship so early into college I was not only able to confirm my passion and career path, but I was also able to network with professionals in the law field, gain experience, and add this to my resume (which will be extremely helpful for law school)!

I would strongly recommend that incoming college freshmen find an internship next summer, or during the school year your sophomore year. Even if it is small, it will still be good to have on your resume when applying for more competitive positions later on. When searching for an internship, you want to start months in advance so you don’t miss any application deadlines. You can find open positions by searching online, asking professionals you know in the field, or going through your university. At most universities, the specific colleges (arts and science, nursing, business, etc.) will have their own internship coordinator or advisor who can work with you to find a job that would best fit your schedule and needs. Some majors have an internship class you can take, and instead of meeting in person, you go to the internship. My sophomore year I took a class similar to this. I had to get 180 hours at my internship, have my boss write an evaluation, and complete weekly assignments in exchange for six credit hours. Some universities that have a strong study abroad program offer Lead Abroad, which places students with internships in other countries (similar to studying abroad, but with no classes). If you are interested in your major but not too sure if it’s for you, definitely consider an internship. Research Lead Abroad, different companies or firms that offer internships in a position you are interested in, and the different options your specific college within your university has to offer, to determine which route would be best for you and your educational needs. Not only will this be a great experience, but starting early puts you ahead of your peers both in the workforce, and when applying for higher education such as a masters program or law school. Starting an internship early into my college career was the best decision I could have made for my future, and I am now confident that being a lawyer is the path I want to go down in life. I hope you are able to find an internship and future career that you love, and I wish you nothing but the best!

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