No. Law schools do not expect applicants to have had any previous legal employment, nor do they generally give any preference to applicants who have had legal internships. If you decide to do a legal internship, you should do it for the other personal benefits, not for the misplaced hope that it will help you get into law school.
What are the benefits of a legal internship?
The primary benefit of a legal internship is that it will likely help you evaluate whether a legal career is a good fit for your strengths and interests. It is hard to know whether you would enjoy any profession without seeing what professionals in that field do on a day-to-day basis. A legal internship would give you access to a legal environment, and ideally, by the end of the internship, you would have a better idea whether or not law school is the right choice for you. If you do decide to attend law school, previous legal internships can often help you form professional connections that could benefit you in your future legal career.
What kind of legal internships are available?
First, there tend to be the most legal internships for undergraduates in government agencies and non-profits. Second, there are a small number of corporate legal departments that have formal internship programs. Third, small law firms sometimes hire undergraduates as interns, although these internships often go to undergraduates with an existing connection to the firm. But it is extremely rare for large law firms to hire undergraduates as interns.
Don’t expect to do much legal research if you do find a legal internship. Undergraduate interns often do clerical work primarily, although there are exceptions. The more important function of a legal internship is to help you better evaluate if law school and the practice of law are a good fit for you.
How do I find an internship or volunteer experience?
There are many resources available for searching opportunities, depending on the type of experience you are looking for. Below are resources for finding select types of opportunities, but remember, a Google search can also be a powerful tool for finding an opportunity that is right for you!
For finding non-profit internship and volunteer opportunities, Idealist is a great source that allows you to search by interest and location.
For information on congressional internships, make sure to search the representative’s or senator’s website.
CPLA includes internship and volunteer opportunities in our weekly newsletter so make sure you are on the list-serve in order to be notified of these opportunities! Sign up here: firstname.lastname@example.org