Like test driving a car, sometimes experiencing the field firsthand before committing to a program is best before signing on the dotted line. One way to test out the legal field before beginning your studies is through internships.
Internships can be both paid and unpaid, depending on the firm’s policy and size. For many in smaller communities, students should be prepared to work part-time on top of an internship as many firms do not have the funds to pay both support staff and interns.
Internship opportunities offer interested paralegal students a chance to see how the field really works beyond the books and also try out various types of law. If you think you are interested in contract law, after working in that field, you may discover you prefer family law or personal injury litigation. Ask the attorney if you can shadow him or her in the courtroom and see the law firsthand.
The majority of intern work is anything but glamorous and involves mundane tasks such as filing, data entry or processing the firm’s mail. However, no matter what type of work an intern does, having an internship listed on a resume’ does help after school when applying for a job. Further, it saves any financial loss from paying for a paralegal degree or certificate only to find out that this career path is not the one for you.
If you are already enrolled in a paralegal program, the best resource to locate internships is through the school’s Career Resource Center. Many online programs offer these same types of resources that traditional colleges offer. In addition, many social media sites, such as LinkedIn, can be an excellent resource for networking and locating internship opportunities.
It is always best to try something out before you take the leap, especially with a decision as big as a career choice. Take an internship and see if the paralegal path is the right one for you.
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm