What happens during internships in the legal world, and how can the intern make this experience a real success for his future career?
After completing theory training, the law student has to follow professional training at the Bar for a period of 4 or 8 months, and then comes the internship in the workplace. During this period, the intern has the opportunity to acquire experience in the field that will influence the rest of his career.
For example, in Montreal’s Spiegel Sohmer firm, there are many practical tasks. “The intern works directly with our lawyers,” says Julie Gamache, Director of Talent, Culture and Organizational Development at Spiegel Sohmer. “He may be called upon to do research, write legal documents, accompany a lawyer to court or in the context of negotiations related to commercial transactions. The student is therefore doing real and legitimate legal work that is above all very useful to our cases.”
This first professional experience differs from one organization to another, according to Aminata Bal, coordinator at the Professional Development Centre of the Faculty of Law at the Université de Montréal. However, regardless of the host environment, interns have to have certain fundamental qualities, such as a good ability to integrate into a group. “It is essential to develop a team spirit,” she says, “because we will always be asked to work in synergy with our colleagues, to think and reflect as a team.”
At Spiegel Sohmer, the ideal intern has nine essential qualities that feed his legal, organizational and relational skills. “Once they are here and start their internship, they are involved so that it is a rewarding experience for them,” Julie Gamache explains. “There is a mentor assigned to them, so they are supervised and supported in developing key competencies.”
As for these qualities, Julie Gamache speaks about self-confidence, ability to learn, intellectual agility and open-mindedness, initiative, communication skills. It is also essential to know how to work with others.
That said, the best way to turn an internship into a great impetus for your career is to carefully choose the firm that will host you. You have to do some research first. “The best thing for a successful internship is to be in the environment that suits you best,” says Aminata Bal. “You will get a good start to your career because it lets you be yourself…”