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Don't Flip Interns, Invest in Future Lawyers

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on July 13, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Summer is upon us and many firms have begun the hiring and on-boarding of hoards of relieved student interns. The word "intern" is not a universal one. More hoity-toity firms use the term "summer associate," though this could be regarded as an ethical no-no.

Call them whatever you want, a lot of these interns will spend their summers at the firm and leave -- never to be seen again. And this could be as much a mark of the culture of firm life as it is the quality of the students. What should employers really be doing?

The Current State of Being

Unfortunately, there is an embarrassing shortage of decent real life training for lawyers at the law school level which leaves students in the position of having to supplant their education at law firms. Real world experience, however, ought to be reserved for applying skills learned in school, not skills that must be learned in the workplace.

But that's the way it is right now and change will not come easily. Law firms are stuck in the habit of treating thousands of temporary interns like hot potatoes. They too easily sign an intern on for the job and hope he or she is a proper fit. If not, then there's always next summer.

Hiring for Future Family

The better practice is to find the best fitting candidate and invest in them with the mind that they'll become lawyers for the firm. Good firms actively research their future family members.

How will you know? This is a skill that can't be learned from a book, but a few techniques can help trim the process. Actively look for candidates that have built up a reputation amongst their peers as being very work-oriented and positive. The law is a hard area of professional life and you constantly need to bring in fresh and positive talent in the workplace.

But the best place to start is the interview. Truly. A firm should engage potential interns with one important message in the back of its mind: "Can this person work with us for the long haul?" With this question as the guiding light, we think you'll be surprised to find that you'll be hiring fewer "interns" per se, and more future lawyers who will be loyal to their first love.

Need a new lawyer to join your growing firm? Consider posting a job opening to Indeed, for free.

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