Starting a new internship can be a mix of excitement and nerves. Because an internship is limited in scope and duration, you want to maximize your experience while making a positive impression on your colleagues. To help you succeed in your internship, we’ve gathered some valuable tips from the outgoing class of summer associates at LCW that can be applied across various industries.
- Embrace Uncertainty
As an intern just starting their career, you’ll be working alongside experienced professionals who may not have all the answers themselves. After all, LCW’s public and private sector clients seek legal support to help them comply with an array of labor, employment, education, and nonprofit laws, many of which involve complicated and overlapping standards. In the law, “it depends” is a practice turned adage—and for good reason. Uncertainty is the law’s bread and butter and navigating it effectively is essential for success.
How do you grapple with uncertainty?
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” answers Jacqueline Hubbell, a summer associate at the Los Angeles office. “The attorneys at LCW are aware you are at the beginning of your career, and they are more than happy to share their knowledge.” When receiving an assignment, Juliana Pech from Los Angeles suggests asking preliminary questions like “Where would you start?” and “How would you go about this assignment?”
“Everyone has made themselves available for help and guidance,” she says, “it is just about asking for it.”
Remember also that asking for help does not guarantee perfection in your work. Another summer associate, Sam Holmberg of the Los Angeles office, encourages everyone to try their best but to not be afraid of making mistakes, as they are opportunities for growth and learning.
In addition to asking questions, it is also good practice to regularly solicit and embrace feedback from your direct supervisors. Allison Sipe from the San Francisco office meets regularly with her mentor and other attorneys she is assigned to work with. “Doing so keeps you on track with your workload and deepens your understanding of the different kinds of work happening at the firm,” she says.
2. Be Proactive
Take ownership of your internship experience. While your workload coordinator or supervisor plays a role in assigning your work, it is essential that you communicate your interests as well. Cindy Rivas from the Los Angeles office suggests identifying the practice areas that intrigue you while being open to gaining experience in unfamiliar practice groups you may not have originally thought you would be interested in. “It will expand your horizons as an attorney and a person,” Jacqueline says. She advises that you find attorneys who do the work you like and ask them what path they took to get there.
Being proactive requires some degree of putting yourself out there. “Don’t just sit at your desk,” says Monica Chinchilla of the San Francisco office. “Walk around and talk to different associates and partners and ask what they’re working on. You’ll find some cool opportunities and develop your network by being proactive.”
Also, take advantage of your office’s resources and opportunities. Allison encourages summer associates at LCW to shadow as many court proceedings as they can, such as depositions and mediations. “We seldom get to see court proceedings in law school,” she says, “so it’s an excellent opportunity at LCW.” Juliana was able to shadow a consortium call on AB 2188, attend a public safety negotiation, and a wage and hour class action hearing in just a few short weeks! And as Sam suggests, unless you have a good reason, avoid declining any opportunities that come your way.
3. Balance Work and Life
Diligence and professionalism are crucial skills to develop, but it is equally important to maintain your personality and interests outside of work. To that end, Chase Booth from the San Diego office reminds interns to be themselves. “Self-regulate as needed to maintain professionalism in the workplace,” he cautions, “but do not entirely discard your personality.” Part of any work culture is determining fit, which includes determining how your personality meshes with those of your future colleagues.
Developing personal connections with your colleagues is an essential aspect of your internship experience. Abigail Lee from the Sacramento office adds that the attorneys you work with are more than just professional mentors. “Part of having a healthy career is work-life balance,” she says, “and I learned a lot about maintaining that from the attorneys at my office.” A simple “Doing anything fun this weekend?” will go a long way. “How was the Barbie movie?” on the following Monday will go even further in building rapport (so long as Barbie was viewed with enthusiasm—your mileage, and the mileage of any reluctant parent dragged along may vary). Let your personality shine and allow the personality of others to shine, too. “The attorneys at LCW are genuine, kind, and friendly people,” Cindy says.
Despite being scattered across various California offices, LCW’s unique “one-firm” philosophy promotes close collaboration because everyone is just a quick phone call or email away. Sam and Cindy encourage interns to get to know as many people as possible, not just the attorneys or staff at your office. You never know what shared hobbies and interests you may have with coworkers unless you ask. “I personally appreciate that many of the attorneys at LCW are parents,” says Abigail, “and as someone who wants to have a family one day, I feel inspired by seeing how hard they work both as parents and lawyers.”
In conclusion, the success of any internship, including at LCW, is defined by effort and engagement. Embrace uncertainty, ask questions, exhibit enthusiasm, be proactive, and maintain your authentic self while showing genuine interest in your colleagues. By following these tips, you can make the most out of your summer internship and lay a strong foundation for your future career.