Whether or not you’re repulsed by the word “law" and any corollary utterance of the study, there’s a good chance that at some point, you’ve at least considered the job. For many of us, that assessment ends as abruptly as it usually begins: at the dinner table with our (overbearing) parents who want us to major in something more substantive than literature or art or music. Granted, for a job so academically and psychologically intensive, it’s natural for us to want to cast away the idea of dedicating ourselves to something that preoccupies so much of one’s human bandwidth. But for the few of us who are either genuinely engaged by the study, or consider its lucrative prospects to be worth the adversity, here are a few things that you can do to get a head start as an undergrad!
Become a clerical assistant/student worker at your local courthouse
A great place to begin building your pre-law background is by searching for local opportunities to break into the scene. Experience working as either a student worker or an uncompensated clerical assistant at a courthouse serves as a fantastic stepping stone for your resume. Not only will you be able to build great insight into the field that you will soon be studying, but you will also gain access to references that help with future job applications - and if you’re there long enough, perhaps you might even acquire insider contacts with the clerks and attorneys there.
Courthouses are usually organized by county, so the best place to begin your application process would be to find out if your countywide courthouse system provides student internships. If they do, great! Apply online and wait to hear back. Since government administration is often slow and inefficient, however, expect to wait at least 1-2 months before hearing back from them, if at all. In fact, in my experience, I had to walk into their offices in person to ask for the internship manager’s contact information after two months of radio silence from them. Two weeks of back-and-forth with him later, I was working as a certified clerical assistant at my city branch. You’ll still need your social security number and resume, as well as pass their background checks before you’re cleared to work, however. Frankly, the process is usually as long as it sounds, so start early! Once you have all of that information prepared, you’re ready for your first foray into the field of law!
Apply to intern at a prosecutor’s office
If you’ve been able to accumulate prior experience that happens to be pertinent to law (think courthouse volunteer work, debate clubs, your school’s constitution team, or even relevant blogging experience), then the next step in the process would be to look for city prosecutors who host internship opportunities. This is often a location-based opportunity, so not everybody will have access to this - but if you do, be sure not to miss out! You may or may not need to go through a competitive application process for this (once again, this depends on availability and the type of opportunity the prosecutor provides), and you may or may not be compensated for you work there, but interning at a city prosecutor’s office will definitely give you a more insightful glimpse into the branch of law that you want to practice. Your experience here will entail partaking in legal seminars, doing researched writing, and working closely with law enforcement officers, criminal prosecutors, lab technicians, and dispatch operators.
Apply to intern at a law firm, or shadow an attorney
If interning at a city prosecutor’s office, isn’t available to you, then the next best alternative is to search for law firms that could use an intern. Call into all the law firms in your area - and if necessary, beyond - to see if you could arrange a work schedule at their offices. It might take a while before you find an attorney who will let you intern or shadow his or her work, but the good news is that law firms are an abundant resource. The work you do in a law firm varies immensely, as it is based on whatever the lawyer needs help with. You might not even be able to do hands-on work just yet, but just know that this has become the normative standard of internships - most notoriously in firms. Regardless, whatever work you’re assigned to do in your firm, it will equip you with the insight you need in deciding specifically what you want to pursue.
No matter where you are in your educational journey, there will almost always be resources out there that will help you along your career. Most of the time, the difficulty of finding those opportunities is the hardest part, especially if you intend to study something more niche. But, as long as you apply yourself and take initiative in your search, you’re guaranteed to find something out there to help you build your background in whatever you hope to become!