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How To Get Started With An Internship Program

By: Rosemarie Larew

Hiring an intern can be the start of a mutually beneficial relationship, especially for sole practitioners and small law firms. “Our internship program began more by chance than design when a friend and neighbor asked whether we could use volunteer labor from her sons,” says CAMS Founding Member Van Hardenbergh. The two young men were headed to college in the fall, so we gave them a summer internship. “They were extremely helpful and got to learn a lot about direct marketing as well as trial practice. This year we took on two new summer interns, and both moved into part-time paid positions when classes resumed this fall.”

The Benefits of Starting An Internship Program

TALENT. How many assistants have you hired, trained, then fired? Internships are temporary employment, and you won’t invest a lot of time and money training an employee who might not be a good fit for your firm in the long run. Also, an intern who performs exceptionally well may turn out to be a great full- or part-time employee.

$$$: Interns want to gain knowledge, practical work experience, college credits, and a good reference. They don’t expect to be paid.

PERSPECTIVE: Interns are enthusiastic, eager to learn, and will bring a fresh perspective to your firm.

#: They also are immersed in the latest technology, especially when it comes to blogging and social media. Chances are they are more competent in this area than you are. Pick those young brains!

PRIORITIES: Interns can perform the less important tasks that eat up your valuable time, allowing you to concentrate on your priorities, such as practice management—and practicing law.

How To Get Started

Starting an internship program takes some planning.

Here are some basic guidelines:

•Write a job description, outlining the intern’s specific duties and your expectations. When possible, assign interns start-to-finish projects.

• Decide on the timing and length of the internship (it usually will coincide with the college calendar).

• Decide who will supervise the intern. This person will be responsible for training, feedback, and performance reviews.

• Make sure your internship meets the criteria set forth in the Fair Standards Labor Act.

• When you’re ready to hire, contact the Career Development Center of a local college or university.

• Start small. Hire one intern and expand the program if all goes well.

If you know an enthusiastic young person who is exceptionally talented, communicates clearly, and (above all) has a positive attitude, please encourage them to send us a resume and a letter describing their definition of personal success and their ideal day of work. We will provide them with our best training, guidance, and encouragement as they learn how to succeed and prepare to earn on their own.

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