Law students spend their days learning how to practice law. They learn about how to draft a motion and how to make objections to evidence. They participate in trial advocacy and they draft briefs for moot court competition. Many students graduate from law school only to realize that they don’t know much about the business of practicing law. They don’t know how to set up a law firm, bill clients, keep records or grow their practice.
One group of legal professionals wants to change all that. The Institute for the Future of Law Practice says that students need paid internships to show them the ropes of the business side of practicing law. They aim to partner with law firms and other businesses in order to show law students that the law is a business. They say their work is all the more important as the practice of law changes quickly with new technologies.
Law students complete a paid internship with a law firm that uses cutting-edge technology or with a legal department of a large corporation. They say the program improves legal services for the community because the attorneys are better equipped to serve their clients.
Legal placement advisors say that corporate departments are growing and law firms are shrinking. More and more, large companies rely on their own legal teams rather than contracting through a law firm. They say it’s critical to train law students to join the ranks.
Organizers at the institute say that students can choose from a summer internship that lasts 10 weeks or a year-round internship that lasts seven months. They say that summer internships might be better for first year students while second or third year students might want the practical benefits of a longer relationship with a company. They say the longer internship really lets a student learn what the job involves and expand their knowledge in the field.
Another benefit of the program is the pay. Organizers of the Institute say that the seven-month program takes the place of a semester of law school. The student doesn’t pay tuition, and they get paid. They say they offer pay of at least $5,000 per month for work. They say students must have the credits to take a semester off, because the students don’t get academic credit for their work. They say it’s not fair to charge tuition for the program because the work doesn’t take place on campus. Institute leaders say they hope to expand the program to law schools nationwide in the future.